For more than a century, hydropower has been among the nation’s largest sources of renewable energy. And although renewable energy is a growing interest among college students, many young professionals may be unaware of the opportunities to innovate—and find careers in—the evolving hydropower industry.

To help satisfy budding curiosity in clean energy careers and pique interest in hydropower, next month the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Hydropower Foundation, will launch the inaugural Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC).

The first HCC will engage interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students to offer unique solutions to complex challenges related to hydropower’s ability to enable a 100% clean energy grid, and hopes to attract a new set of skilled and diverse workers to modernize the U.S. hydropower fleet. Participating teams will develop a hydropower technology concept design, participate in contests, and ultimately present their work at an industry event. Through the HCC, students will also gain industry experience, a window into potential hydropower career pathways, and greater knowledge of hydropower’s potential to contribute to a clean energy future.

As a competitor, young innovators of diverse backgrounds can help shape hydropower’s role in a 100% clean energy grid and identify opportunities for innovation. Hydropower already plays a significant role in the U.S. power system, providing 37% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation and 93% of grid-scale energy storage. But, it has even more potential to play new, pivotal roles in the energy system as the United States transitions to clean energy.

Hydropower has the potential to support over 195,000 U.S.-based jobs by 2050. The U.S. hydropower industry currently employs approximately 66,500 people directly; however, approximately 26% of these workers are age 55 and older and will reach retirement age within the next decade, and the hydropower sector has reported that attracting new talent is extremely difficult. The HCC can help change this.

The HCC builds on the success of DOE’s Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (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 or another ocean-related field.

Looking to explore a different clean energy technology? Visit the DOE website to learn more about different student competitions organized by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Get a head start on your submission by learning more about the HCC and sign up for email alerts to keep up with the latest on HCC and other news related to water power-focused science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) efforts. Learn more about STEM careers and workforce development opportunities on the Hydropower STEM Portal and Marine Energy STEM Portal.