Explore Water Power Careers
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America's oldest and largest source of renewable power is water. To this end, the Water Power Program, part of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, researches, tests, evaluates, and deploys a portfolio of innovative technologies for clean, domestic power generation from resources such as hydropower, waves, and tides.
- Mechanical Engineer
- Electrical Engineer
Project Development & Deployment
- Civil Engineer
- Construction Manager
- Hydropower Strategy Director
- Hydroelectric Plant Operator
- Engineering Analyst
What's Driving Job Creation?
Hydropower is one of America's largest renewable energy resources, and with 50% of the U.S. population living within 50 miles of coastlines, there is vast potential to provide clean, renewable electricity to communities and cities across the United States using marine and hydrokinetic technologies. Based on the various resource assessments sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the technical resource potential for United States wave, tidal, current, and riverine hydrokinetic resources is estimated to be between 1,286 and 1,787 terawatt-hours per year.
Transmission & Scalability
Water power resources are available in every region of the country, and its projects can vary in size from 1 MW small hydropower projects to 1,000 MW pumped-storage projects. DOE is supporting testing and deployment of the nation's first wave and tidal energy projects, and launched the first federally funded hydropower facility upgrades in more than 20 years—increasing generation by 7% to 30% at seven large hydropower projects.
Where Can I Find Classes or Training?
- Clean Energy Institute (CEI) of GPEKS: CEI courses cover 10 major clean technology areas including small hydro. The courses are based on a case-study learning approach and expand on the curriculum initially developed by the RETScreen division of Natural Resources Canada.
- Water Power: This includes water power basics, visualization tools, and water power datasets.
- University of Vermont – Sustainability Programs: The University of Vermont offers advanced certificates in sustainable innovation and in campus sustainable innovation. The certificate programs are designed to help you reduce waste and the consumption of energy, water, and other natural resources.
- Interested in how hydropower works? Check out our Energy 101 video series posts on hydroelectric and marine power.
- Humans have used water as a source of energy for thousands of years – learn about the history of hydropower.
Workforce and Economic Need
The Brookings Institute estimates that the hydroelectric industry employs over 55,000 Americans1. In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission currently has nearly 300 preliminary hydropower permits issued. This means that nearly 300 sites are being studied and will receive priority licensing registration once their studies are complete. Each of these projects can require years of planning, construction, and operation and can create hundreds or thousands of jobs depending on project scale2.
Estimates project between 140,000–440,000 jobs directly created by new hydropower development across the U.S. by 2025, as well as potential for an additional 95,000–265,000 new jobs created indirectly by industry demands.
1Sizing the Clean Economy. (2011). The Brookings Institute: Washington, DC. Accessed October 16, 2013. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2011/7/13%20clea...
2Job Creation Opportunities in Hydropower. (2009). Navigant Consulting: Chicago, IL. National Hydropower Association. Accessed October 11, 2013. http://www.hydro.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/NHA_JobsStudy_FinalRepor...