Hydropower/Prizes and Competitions/Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC)

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U.S. Department of Energy Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC)


U.S. Department of Energy Hydropower Collegiate Competition

HCC Badge

The application period for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2023 inaugural Hydropower Collegiate Competition is now closed. See the list of the first Hydropower Collegiate Competition competitors .

The hydropower industry is critical to the Biden Administration’s goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. Hydropower already plays an important role in our power system—it provides 37% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation and 93% of grid-scale energy storage—and yet it still has untapped potential and significant opportunity for growth. However, this growth can only be realized with further innovation and a new generation of skilled workers to support this clean energy transition.

To pave the way for next-generation workers to start their careers in clean energy, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in partnership with the Hydropower Foundation, have established the Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC). In its first year, HCC calls on interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of academic programs to offer unique solutions to complex hydropower challenges.

About the 2023 Competition

The inaugural HCC will be held in conjunction with Waterpower Week in Washington D.C. or a similar industry event in the spring of 2023. Domestic teams will receive $10,000 cash to support their efforts throughout the competition year.

Competitors will design a concept to solve leading hydropower challenges, participate in the Connection Creation Contest and the Case Study Contest, and present their work at Waterpower Week in Spring 2023 or a similar industry event. They will also produce several deliverables throughout the year to help promote their efforts, attend monthly all-team calls to hear updates from competition organizers and industry guest speakers, and participate in several educational and industry-focused webinars.

hydropower damn
Unsplash, Kees Streefkerk.

Competition Deliverables

For the 2023 HCC, collegiate teams will compete in two contests, which include the following deliverables:

  • The Case Study Contest
    • A Case Study Report: Teams will submit a 20-page report analyzing a case study issued by NREL that focuses on how hydropower fits into a future power grid supported by 100% renewable energy and the associated opportunities and challenges of incorporating the hydropower fleet into this clean energy vision. Teams select a dam for the case study.
    • A Pitch and Q&A Session: Teams will participate in a 10-minute public pitch, sharing their approach to their case study. This will be followed by 10 minutes of questions from a panel of judges.
  • The Connections Creations Contest
    • A Team Story: Teams will submit a 1- to 2-page team summary detailing their project, goals, and background.
    • Discovering the Hydropower Industry Interviews: Teams will explore multiple sectors of the hydropower industry and learn about career opportunities. Each team will interview a minimum of four industry professionals and share insights about their roles and experience in the final presentation.
    • Community Engagement: Each team will organize and run at least one educational event with middle school, high school, or post-secondary students and/or the general public.
    • A Final Presentation: Teams will develop a final PowerPoint presentation to share their results on each competition element. Each team will have 10 minutes to present to a panel of judges. This will be followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges.

Who Can Participate?

Teams composed of undergraduate and graduate students (with a minimum of 50% undergraduate participation) from post-secondary institutions, including colleges and universities, community colleges, and trade and technical schools.

International institutions are welcome to apply but must partner with a domestic U.S. institution with both institutions being represented at the final culminating event. International teams will not be eligible to receive support funding from DOE/NREL to cover competition participation and travel costs and must provide their own financial support. Teams may partner with multiple institutions. NREL will provide assistance to help form teams as needed.

Why Should Teams Participate?

Inspired by the U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office's Marine Energy Collegiate Competition, HCC provides students with direct industry experience, valuable education on the possibilities of hydropower, and a window into potential—and in some cases unknown—hydropower career pathways.

Important Dates

  • September 2022: All-Team Kickoff meeting
  • December 1, 2022: 2023 HCC team stories are due; industry contact details and slides are due
  • Two weeks prior to the final event (date to be determined): Case Study Contest reports are due
  • Spring 2023 (date to be determined): Final event, which will include:
    • Poster summarizing Case Study Contest and/or Creating Connections Contest activities (optional) are displayed
    • Presentation slides for Creating Connections Contest and Case Study Contest are due
  • June 30, 2023: Competition feedback report/survey are due

Competition News



This portal is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO). The United States Government retains, and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the United States Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for United States Government purposes.

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