Data Access, Analytics, and Workforce Development

Project Name: Hydropower STEM and Workforce Development  

Project Team: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (lead) and the Hydropower Foundation 

Competitors: Columbia University; Cornell University; Endicott College; Northern Arizona University; Pennsylvania State University; Texas Tech University; University of California, Riverside; University of Houston; University of Virginia; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Yale University 

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In 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) launched the inaugural Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC) to pave the way for a new generation of diverse, highly skilled workers to modernize the U.S. hydropower fleet and chart their careers in clean energy. The hydropower industry is critical to achieving the Biden administration’s goal of a carbon-free power sector by 2035, but more than a quarter of the hydropower workforce over the age of 55 is expected to retire in the next decade. The industry needs a new generation to fill these jobs and support the country’s clean energy transition. 

HCC participants will gain direct hydropower industry experience, valuable exposure to potential career pathways, and greater understanding of hydropower’s role in a clean energy future. Eleven schools, including three minority-serving institutions, are participating in the inaugural competition.

A group of students standing near a body of water and a hydropower dam
Students eager for more hydropower professional development activities, like the ones seen here competing in the Hydro Think Tank™, can compete in the new Hydropower Collegiate Competition.
Image from Bree Mendlin, Hydropower Foundation

The HCC is intended to inspire and guide students to join the hydropower workforce. At the same time, the competition aims to incentivize academic leaders to include hydropower in their institution’s curricula, help align industry needs with workforce development programs, and get people excited about growth in new or modern hydropower technologies, like low-impact hydropower, pumped storage hydropower, and adding power to non-powered dams. 

Through this competition, WPTO and its partners are working to address several barriers that could slow hydropower workforce growth. HCC organizers are performing outreach to underrepresented students to help increase diversity in the hydropower industry. The competition also aims to spread awareness and skills to better prepare students for careers in hydropower

WPTO funds the HCC, while the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Hydropower Foundation administer the competition. 

A graphic titled, “2023 Schools” with a logo reading “Hydropower Collegiate Competition U.S. Department of Energy.” The graphic includes a map of the United States with eight states highlighted in blue and a list of those states along with their competing schools.
The inaugural 2023 Hydropower Collegiate Competition will welcome teams from 11 schools spread across eight states.
Image from John Frenzl, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Hydropower Projects