Annual Hydropower Collegiate Competition Applications Open; Share Opportunity with Alma Mater

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Annual Hydropower Collegiate Competition Applications Open; Share Opportunity with Alma Mater


April 22, 2024


The Team at the Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office


Annual Hydropower Collegiate Competition Applications Open; Share Opportunity with Alma Mater

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Know a college student who wants to learn more about a career in hydropower? The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office is now accepting applications for its third annual Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC)! Applications for the competition are due May 6, 2024.

Each year, the HCC tasks students with developing solutions for some of hydropower’s most complex challenges while offering them access to real-world, resume-boosting experience and professional connections that can give them a head start in a career in clean energy.

The HCC, along with its sister competition in marine energy, was designed to educate and engage students in the many career opportunities in water power—with the goal of encouraging the next generation to join the water power workforce. You can help these efforts by reaching out to your alma mater and educating the school about the benefits for students participating in these collegiate competitions.

HCC 2024 competitors were invited to the Clean Currents conference in October 2023 to meet industry professionals and learn about current challenges in the field. (Photo from Werner Slocum, National Renewable Energy Laboratory)


During the 2025 HCC, teams will either develop solutions to convert non-powered dams to hydroelectric dams that can produce between 100 kilowatts and 10 megawatts of power or assess closed-loop pumped storage hydropower systems that can provide between 8 and 24 hours of energy storage.

New this year, competing students will be paired with an industry mentor, giving them an even deeper connection to the hydropower field. Students will have the opportunity to build working relationships with these industry experts who can provide real-world experience, technical expertise, career advice, and other insights into how to navigate the industry.

Competitors will tackle the following challenges, providing a midyear report on their progress to competition organizers in January 2025. Teams will then present their complete project at the HCC final event, which will take place in conjunction with a hydropower industry event in May 2025.

Required Challenges

  • The Siting Challenge, where teams perform a site selection process and then develop a feasibility assessment for the selected site.
  • The Design Challenge, where teams either create a conceptual design of their selected site or complete a final design for a component or system related to the development of their selected site.
  • The Community Connections Challenge, where teams conduct outreach with the hydropower industry and a community of their choosing.

Optional Challenges

  • The Build and Test Challenge, where teams build and test a scaled prototype of a component of their hydropower site or system.
  • The Cyber in Hydro Challenge, where teams will respond to a case study challenge that involves cybersecurity issues.

Teams competing in all three challenges and who complete all required stages will be eligible for up to $15,000 each in cash awards and will compete for part of the $25,000 grand prize cash pool. Teams competing in the Build and Test Challenge will be eligible for an additional $5,000 cash prize each, and those competing in the Cyber in Hydro Challenge will be eligible for an additional $2,000 prize. The scores that teams receive in the optional challenges will not count toward their overall final score.

The HCC is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO)  and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in partnership with the Hydropower Foundation.


  • Explore the HCC Engagement Toolkit for sample promotional materials to share with your alma mater, industry peers, or other water power organizations.
  • Visit the Hydropower Collegiate Competition’s HeroX page for details about the competition, submission requirements, and available resources.
  • Sign up for email alerts from NREL to keep up with the latest on HCC, MECC, and other water power workforce development news.
  • Watch a video introducing the HCC and Marine Energy Collegiate Competition.