A new academic year is underway, which means a new class of college students is preparing for the 2021 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Collegiate Wind Competition (CWC), with winners being announced in June 2021.

With the future in mind, the organizers of the CWC have integrated the theme of adaptability into the 2021 challenge, which calls on teams to research, design, and build a turbine for deployment in highly uncertain times, with a large degree of unknown risks and delays.

This means, for example, the 2021 CWC teams will need to anticipate virtual meetings and finding alternatives to shared laboratory space when developing cohesive design and manufacturing plans that allow them to collaborate remotely. In addition, teams will need to account for possible supply chain disruptions as they design and build their turbines.

“As the 2020 competition showed us, risk and uncertainty are becoming more common in the wind industry and beyond,” said Elise DeGeorge, competition manager at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which facilitates the CWC on DOE’s behalf. “The 2021 competition will help students prepare for their future careers by giving them the opportunity to proactively plan for projects and practice active risk management—crucial skills for any line of work.”

Another new feature of the 2021 competition is the Connection Creation Contest, which is designed to forge stronger connections among competition participants, the wind industry, and local communities.

The Connection Creation Contest will require teams to conduct outreach within the wind industry, their local communities, and local media outlets throughout the coming months. Students will interview wind industry professionals to better understand the roles available in different industry sectors as well as the experience required to fill those roles. In addition, students will have the chance to develop their public relations skills by holding wind energy outreach and education events and by reaching out to local media outlets to share the team’s story with a wider audience. Each team will develop an outreach timeline chronicling their accomplishments throughout the year.

2021 Collegiate Wind Competition

As part of their work in the 2021 Collegiate Wind Competition, students will conduct industry and community outreach through this year’s new Connection Creation Contest. Photo: Werner Slocum, NREL

“These outreach activities are meant to help students develop a record of their work and get their names out where potential employers might see them,” said DeGeorge. “Not only that; these activities will help the students get comfortable talking about their work in wind energy—a skill that will come in handy once they start interviewing for jobs.”

The winners of the 2021 CWC are scheduled to be announced at the AWEA CLEANPOWER conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 7–10, 2021. The event will be held in a virtual format if necessary.

DOE created the CWC in 2014 to help college students prepare for jobs in the wind industry through hands-on, real-world work with wind energy technology and project development. The new themes of the 2021 competition will further that goal by supporting students in developing vital skills for an evolving workforce.