Underwater Drones inspecting hydroelectric dams
Cody Warner | September 14, 2017
As underwater drones, known as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), become more affordable, the hydroelectric power industry capitalizes by doing own inspections.
Hydroelectric dams are complicated structures. There is a multitude of components and various combinations of these mechanisms that make up a hydroelectric power station, making each station its own unique structure. The main goal of these structures is to collect water at one elevation, run that water through a turbine (and turn that turbine) to generate power and then deliver the water out the other side. Assuming it is designed in a way that has minimal impact on the environment, this is a reliable source of renewable energy; so much so that we listed it in our Top Energy Sources of the Future.
Canadian Hydroelectric PowerIn Canada, the province of Quebec is home to numerous rivers and lakes making it a perfect location for the array of hydroelectric dams it houses. In fact, 97 percent of Quebec's power is currently being supplied through hydroelectricity, which contributes to its residents benefiting from the lowest electricity rates out of all provinces in the country. Generating income for the province, Quebec exports a large portion of their power surplus to neighboring provinces and into the US including Maine and New York. One company with extensive experience in the industry is GENIFAB. This engineering firm that specializes in the field of heavy mechanical devices, such as locks, mobile bridge mechanics, ferry loading dock mechanisms and many more similar structures and systems. They have developed in excess of a hundred different prototypes built to serve Canadian dam facilities such as Hydro Quebec.
Inspecting Hydroelectric DamsIn 2007, GENIFAB saw an increase in their calls for inspection work. Up until that time, they were generally employed as design engineers working in tandem with commercial divers to provide inspection services. The calls for inspection assistance were often after major mechanical failures or a broken gate at one of the hydroelectric dams. Donald Dupont from GENIFAB said, "The cost of divers was prohibitive for performing preliminary inspections or preventative inspections, it was also difficult to coordinate with their schedules."
Hydroelectric Power Underwater Drone Inspection
Dupont searched for other solutions and came across Deep Trekker. He opted to purchase a DTG3 Smart ROV and perform the inspections himself. Not only did this make all of their inspections possible without the high cost of dive teams, it also enabled them to perform some inspections while keeping portions of plants running. "For instance, we can inspect a draft tube on one group while the other groups are operating," Dupont commented. The risk to a single ROV is much less than the risk to a human life, increasing the comfort level of not just GENIFAB but also their plant owner client.
An unforeseen benefit for the DTG2 was the ROV enabling GENIFAB to get involved early in rehabilitation projects. By being the one performing the inspection they build trust with their client and distinguish themselves from competitors who utilize more traditional means of inspection. "Offering underwater inspections is expanding the field of work of our company," Dupont said. "We are able to offer a complete technical solution to dam owners, not only the mechanical design portion but also the entire structural design of the spillway."
Deep Trekker is proud to have customers like GENIFAB and to help on such large structural projects. Curious where else the ROV is used in Hydro dams? Check out:
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