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The Future of Water Power: 2023 Hydropower and Marine Energy Collegiate Competitions Open for Applications

Brittany Enos's picture
Communications Specialist National Renewable Energy Laboratory

I work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as a communications professional, supporting the water power team.

  • Member since 2022
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  • May 3, 2022
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Are you ready to help spark a clean energy revolution?

Renewable energy resources continue to generate more and more of the nation’s electricity. As renewables become more prevalent­—and the clean energy transition more vital—the interest in renewable energy is also growing. Many college students are now seeking opportunities to innovate—and find careers in—the evolving hydropower and marine energy industries.

To help young professionals explore their curiosity in clean energy careers, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office announced the launch of the inaugural Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC) and fourth annual Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC): Powering the Blue Economy™.

Administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on behalf of the Water Power Technologies Office, both competitions are now accepting applications from undergraduate and graduate-level students. NREL administers the HCC in partnership with the Hydropower Foundation.

“Many students are unaware of potential hydropower and marine energy career pathways,” said Elise DeGeorge, the HCC competition manager. “These competitions offer real-world learning opportunities that can help provide the training and education needed to meet future hydropower and marine energy industry workforce needs.”

A New Stream of Hydropower Professionals

Join the 2023 HCC to hone your knowledge and skill set in
hydropower, gain exposure to hydropower technologies, and
establish industry connections. Graphic by NREL

Aiming to attract a new set of skilled workers to modernize the U.S. hydropower fleet and lead the next-generation workforce, the HCC attracts a new cadre of innovators who can help customize hydropower’s role as a renewable energy resource, while also supporting the Biden administration’s goal of a decarbonized power sector by 2035.

The HCC encourages students to build diverse, multidisciplinary teams to gain direct industry experience, valuable exposure to potential hydropower career pathways, and greater knowledge of hydropower’s potential to contribute to a clean energy future. Undergraduate and graduate students from postsecondary institutions—including colleges, universities, community colleges, and trade schools—are invited to compete in the HCC. Students from non-U.S. institutions are welcome to apply but must partner with students from a U.S.-accredited institution, and only teams led by U.S. institutions are eligible to receive U.S. Department of Energy funding.

The 2023 cohort of hydropower competitors will participate in two contests:

  • The Case Study Contest, when teams will analyze a case study 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.
  • The Connections Creation Contest, when teams will explore multiple sectors of the hydropower industry and learn about career opportunities. Each team will also organize and run at least one educational event with middle school, high school, or college students and/or the general public.

Splash-Worthy Ideas for Next-Generation Marine Energy

The HCC builds on the success of the MECC, which launched in 2019 to provide college students the opportunity to build real-world experience and professional connections that will help them land jobs in marine energy. The 2023 MECC application window is open.

Entering its third year, MECC is looking for a new cohort of
collegiate competitors to take the marine energy industry by
storm. Graphic by NREL

Administered by NREL, MECC enables diverse teams of students from multiple disciplines to get real-world experience exploring innovative marine energy solutions to address power needs across the blue economy. The 2023 MECC challenges competitors to unlock the power of the ocean through the development of next-generation technologies that build resiliency in coastal communities and provide power at sea.

Specifically, the 2023 MECC teams will be asked to:

  • Develop a market-research-supported business plan and conceptual-level technical design of a system that could be commercialized to address power needs for a chosen sector of the blue economy
  • Pitch their plan to a panel of judges and hypothetical investors
  • Build and test a device to achieve energy production (optional)
  • Engage with their community through outreach and educational activities.

The 2022 MECC student teams brought a diverse range of students representing every corner of the continental United States, along with international students from Brazil, Pakistan, Qatar, and Northern Ireland. The competitors will present their plans to a panel of judges in May, with a winner announcement to follow.

Ride the Up-and-Coming Current

Want to contribute to the clean energy transition? Submit your application for HCC and/or MECC by May 8, 2022. Submission forms will not require initial research or engineering.

Read the 2023 HCC Rules & Requirements and 2023 MECC Rules & Requirements to learn about the competition guidelines, timelines, and more. Looking to explore a different clean energy technology? Sign up for email alerts to keep up with the latest on HCC, MECC, and more.

Learn more about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers and workforce development opportunities on the Hydropower STEM Portal and Marine Energy STEM Portal.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 3, 2022

Aiming to attract a new set of skilled workers to modernize the U.S. hydropower fleet and lead the next-generation workforce, the HCC attracts a new cadre of innovators who can help customize hydropower’s role as a renewable energy resource, while also supporting the Biden administration’s goal of a decarbonized power sector by 2035.

This seems to be so important! I wonder-- is there any struggle for the hydropower generation sector in competing with other sources of renewable energy that are newer and more talked about, whether that's solar, offshore wind, or even things like hydrogen / biofuels? Is there a notion that those thinking about clean energy are going to the newer shinier toys compared with hydropower that's been around and mature for longer? 

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