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Hydropower Collegiate Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office announced the 36 teams selected as participants in the 2025 Hydropower Collegiate Competition!

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Hydropower—energy created from fresh, moving water—is the world’s oldest form of renewable energy. Throughout human history, we have used the power of rivers and streams to produce flour, lumber, paper, textiles, and metal products. Today, we still use water to generate clean, affordable electricity.

The hydropower industry is critical to the Biden Administration’s goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. Hydropower already plays an important role in our power system—it provides 37% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation and 93% of grid-scale energy storage—and yet it still has untapped potential and significant opportunity for growth. However, this growth can only be realized with further innovation and a new generation of skilled workers to support this clean energy transition.

Northern Arizona University – 1st place

Photos from Joshua Bauer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

After reviewing the presentations, the competition’s expert judges selected the first, second, and third place winners. They also chose five individual category winners: 

  • Siting Challenge: Northern Arizona University
  • Design Challenge: Northern Arizona University
  • Community Connections Challenge: Northern Arizona University and Johns Hopkins University (tie)
  • Optional Build and Test Challenge: Johns Hopkins University
  • Best Poster: University of North Florida.

The judges also gave special recognitions to the following teams:

  • Rising to the Challenge: University of Michigan
  • Most Energized: Texas Tech University.

2025 Teams

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has announced the 36 teams selected to participate in the 2025 Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC) and Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC), the largest cohort of teams to date. These annual competitions engage and educate students about real-world challenges facing these sectors and the many career opportunities in water power with the goal of encouraging the next generation to join the hydropower and marine energy workforces.

“Our Hydropower and Marine Energy Collegiate Competitions call on the next generation to help these resources fulfill their potential in the clean energy transition,” said Matthew Grosso, WPTO acting director. “We look forward to seeing the creative and innovative water power concepts these students develop throughout the year.”

During the 2025 HCC, teams will develop solutions to convert non-powered dams to hydroelectric dams that can produce between 100 kilowatts and 10 megawatts of power or assess the feasibility of a potential closed-loop pumped storage hydropower site that can provide between 8 and 24 hours of energy storage. Each team will be assigned a hydropower industry mentor. Teams will be required to complete three challenges and may choose to participate in two optional challenges.

The following 13 teams will participate in the third annual HCC: 

  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • California State University, Fresno
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Purdue University
  • Southern Utah University
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of California, Riverside
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • University of Houston
  • University of Michigan
  • University of North Florida
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Vanderbilt University

About the 2025 Competition

Learn more about the 2025 competition at

Unsplash, Kees Streefkerk.

Prize Overview

To pave the way for the next generation of workers to start their careers in the hydropower and renewable energy industries, U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in partnership with the Hydropower Foundation, established the Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC) in 2022. The HCC calls on interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of academic programs to offer unique solutions to complex hydropower challenges.

By participating in the HCC, students gain industry experience, valuable exposure to hydropower career pathways, and greater knowledge of hydropower’s potential to contribute to a clean energy future.

Who Can Participate

Teams must meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  • Teams may consist of a combination of postsecondary, undergraduate, and graduate students, but must be at least 50% postsecondary and/or undergraduates.
  • Both U.S. and non-U.S. institutions are welcome to apply and participate.
  • Non-U.S. institutions are not eligible to receive cash prize funding.
  • In a team with students from U.S. and non-U.S. institutions, the lead institution must be a U.S. academic institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education to be eligible for cash prize funding.

Teams should strive to include a diverse range of academic disciplines, including but not limited to:

  • Engineering
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Environmental and Public Policy
  • Social Sciences

Teams should also strive to include in their teams individuals from groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Follow the Competition

Competition Structure

The HCC invites selected teams to develop a concept to solve leading hydropower challenges. Over 10-12 months, teams develop materials for several challenges, outlined below. Teams present their work at the HCC final event, typically held at an industry event.

The 2024 HCC theme is on converting non-powered dams (NPDs) to hydroelectric dams.

HCC teams compete in the following challenges:

  • Siting Challenge: Evaluate potential sites to choose an NPD site that fits the challenge requirements.
  • Design Challenge: Complete a detailed design of a singular hydropower concept within their selected NPD site or an overall conceptual design of the full powerhouse.
  • Community Connections Challenge: Create connections among HCC teams, the hydropower industry, students, and local communities.
  • Optional Build and Test Challenge: Build a scaled prototype of their concept and perform a series of tests.

Read the HCC 2024 Rules document to learn more about the competition.

Competition News

More To Explore

Hydro Think Tank™ PNW

Deadline to Apply: May 15, 2024
Rocky Reach Dam & Visitors Center
Wenatchee, WA
August 13 – 15, 2024

Power up & Join the Waterpower Club!

We are the Waterpower Club - Waterpower Community Partnership (WC2), founded to help students connect to opportunities in the waterpower sector.