The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) today opened applications for the inaugural Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC) and fourth annual Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC). These competitions aim to inspire and help build the workforce to lead the hydropower and marine energy industries, which are important resources needed to achieve the Biden administration’s goals of a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.

“We’re developing the next generation of talented workers to help us meet our climate goals,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “These competitions are designed to help spark interest in hydropower and marine energy careers and to develop the diverse skills needed to lead these critical clean energy industries in the years to come.”

The HCC and MECC offer participants the opportunity to develop solutions to complex energy challenges and build real-world experience and professional connections, paving the way for students to start their clean energy careers. Applications for both competitions are due May 8, 2022.

Hydropower already plays an important role in the power system, providing 37% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation and 93% of grid-scale energy storage, yet the industry still has untapped potential and significant opportunity for growth. The HCC provides a platform for students to develop unique solutions to complex challenges related to hydropower’s ability to enable a 100% renewable energy grid.

HCC teams will compete in two contests:

  • In the Case Study Contest, 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.
     
  • In the Connections Creation Contest, teams will interview industry professionals to explore and learn about career opportunities in different sectors of the hydropower industry. Each team will also organize and conduct at least one event educating middle school, high school, or college students, and/or the public about hydropower.

The inaugural HCC builds on the success of the MECC, which challenges competitors to unlock the power of the ocean through the development of next-generation marine energy technologies. Marine energy resources offer opportunities to provide clean energy to remote and island communities and to leverage the ocean to power blue economy applications such as ocean observation technology or desalination and water treatment devices.

Specifically, the 2023 MECC teams will:

  • 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 produce energy (optional).
     
  • Engage with their community through outreach and educational activities.

Undergraduate and graduate students from post-secondary institutions—including colleges, universities, community colleges, and trade schools—are invited to compete in both competitions. 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 WPTO funding. HCC and MECC applications do not require initial research or engineering.

WPTO funds and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) administers both competitions. The Hydropower Foundation also administers the HCC in partnership with NREL. NREL will host an informational webinar on the HCC on April 13 at 1 p.m. ET, and on the MECC on April 20 at 1 p.m. ET.

The 2022 MECC cohort is comprised of students representing every corner of the continental United States, as well as Brazil, Pakistan, Qatar, and Northern Ireland. The competitors will present their design concepts and business plans to a panel of judges during the public final event in May 2022.