The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Geothermal Collegiate Competition (GCC) invites teams from collegiate institutions to develop real-world geothermal solutions while competing for cash prizes and gaining resume experience in the renewable energy industry.
Through this competition, students gain renewable energy industry experience and have opportunities to engage with industry professionals as well as local communities. Competing in the GCC can serve as an introduction to the renewable energy field, or where students can broaden their understanding of how geothermal energy can play a meaningful role in communities and the transition to a clean energy economy. Students of all majors, minors, and career paths are encouraged to participate in the annual geothermal competition. The theme for the competition is updated each year.
The GCC is now a part of DOE’s American-Made collection of prizes and competitions. The Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) has funded the GCC for more than 10 years, supporting workforce development and giving students a chance to gain resume experience in the geothermal industry while still in school.
Want to be part of next year’s competition as a team or a mentor? Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up for email updates about this program!
Fall 2023 Geothermal Collegiate Competition
The 2023 competition featured two tracks: the Technical Track, in which teams designed a geothermal heating and cooling system from the ground up for a proposed community of their choosing; and the new Policy Track, in which teams conducted an analysis of the regulatory environment and economic feasibility for a proposed geothermal system. Thirty-three teams from 25 U.S. collegiate institutions applied to compete, and teams in either track had the option to be paired with a volunteer mentor, gaining valuable connections to learn more about the geothermal industry.
First Place Teams
Both first-place teams earned $10,000 in prize funding for their innovative geothermal applications, and will also receive funding to host a geothermal stakeholder event in the community where their project took place later this semester.
Policy Track: Columbia University & Princeton University
The team from Columbia and Princeton Universities partnered with the Native Village of Elim to explore geothermal options for the 330-person Alaskan town. The team’s economic analysis of their proposed ocean-based closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system found that system costs could be recouped in as little as 14 years, advancing clean energy in a manner consistent with the Inupiat way of living from the land and saving residents more than 2.3 million gallons of fuel oil and 70 million pounds of wood over 30 years.
Technical Track: The University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma team designed a system of geothermal wells to heat and cool the Osage Nation’s 40,000-square-foot greenhouse, supporting efforts for native food sovereignty in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The greenhouse was established during the COVID-19 pandemic when there was a breakdown in the Tribe’s food system. The proposed geothermal system design would help alleviate the challenge of maintaining a constant year-round growing temperature.
Second Place Teams
Second place and $6,000 each went to:
Technical Track: Kyle White’s Team from the University of Tulsa
This team took second place for designing a system to bring geothermal to the Lorton Performance Center—a musical and performance arts hub that currently accounts for 6% of the university’s heating and cooling costs—by using horizontal piping installed under a nearby athletic field.
Policy Track: Davidson Lab’s Team from the University of California San Diego
This team proposed using federal incentives to revitalize the Boise Cascade Mill—a brownfields site in Cascade, Idaho—with a geothermal system that could meet an 8.6-GWh annual energy demand for over 2,800 residents while creating nearly 100 local jobs.
Thank You, 2023 GCC Mentors!
Thank you to the following geothermal industry professionals who volunteered to mentor teams throughout the Fall 2023 Geothermal Collegiate Competition:
- Aparna Aravelli
- Philip Ball
- Kelly Blake
- Timothy Carr
- Tawfik Elshehabi
- Nicholas Fry
- Nagasree Garapati
- Jackson Grimes
- Sarah Harper
- William Harvey
- Bryant Jones
- Sudeep Kanungo
- Aaron Levine
- Daniel Minguez
- Pajang Priyandoko
- Juliet Simpson
- Faith Smith
- Andrew Stumpf
- Luca Xodo
2022 Geothermal Collegiate Competition Winning Teams
In the 2022 competition, student teams designed district use geothermal systems and geothermal curriculums for local schools, partnering with local communities through stakeholder events.
The Sooners Geothermal Team from the University of Oklahoma earned first place and $10,000 for designing a system to repurpose six abandoned oil and gas wells in Shawnee, Oklahoma, to provide clean, renewable geothermal energy for more than 730,449 square feet of educational and municipal buildings. The area includes sites within the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and Potawatomi Nation jurisdiction. The University of North Dakota and Reykjavik University earned second place and $5,000 for their design of a combined heat and power geothermal system for the city of New Town, North Dakota, located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and home to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation, and the University of Colorado-Boulder took third place and $2,500 in prize funding for their design of a geothermal ground source heat pump for a local non-profit that provides a range of support to young people from under-resourced communities.
Below are themes from past competitions.
- Spring 2021: Community Geothermal
How can direct-use geothermal benefit my community?
- GTO reached out to the participants of the 2021 GCC to learn how the competition and their backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics prepared them for a future in the clean energy workforce and influenced their career paths. Read the full interviews.
- Fall 2020: Infographics
How can print and digital infographics and data visualization foster broader understanding of geothermal energy?
- Spring 2020: GIS Mapping
How can geospatial mapping increase our understanding of this important renewable energy resource?
- 2019: Data Visualization
Where do you target your next production well to maximize geothermal reservoir performance?
- Students transformed raw data from the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) site into compelling visualizations as part of this challenge.
- 2016: Infographic
What is the future of geothermal energy and how will it impact you?
- 2014: GeoEnergy is Beautiful
- 2013: Development of a business white paper on geothermal energy production and commercialization in each team's state or region
- 2012: Assessment of geothermal resources at the Snake River Plain
- 2011: Assessment of geothermal resources at the Rio Grande Rift
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