Hydropower is the single largest source of renewable energy in the world, representing a staggering 70% of global renewable energy. Hydropower is produced whenever water flows through a turbine on its way from the mountains back to the ocean. Popular forms of hydropower include dams, tidal, run of river and pumped storage. The primary benefits to hydropower include the low cost of operation, flexibility to adapt to changing energy demands, and zero emissions created during operation. Hydropower is expected to continue to grow at around 3% per year as global energy demands continue to rise. As energy demand continues to increase, so too does the need to monitor, inspect and repair infrastructure associated with hydropower plants. Inspection class remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) provide the perfect means to efficiently and safely inspect dams, reservoirs and river-ways. Here are a five ways ROVs are used in the hydroelectric power industry:
Inspect intake screens:
Whenever water enters a hydropower plant it must first pass through an intake screen meant to filter out fish, weeds, trash and other floating objects from entering a plant’s turbines. These screens must be routinely inspected and cleared of debris to ensure optimal flow. The screens themselves may become damaged or rusted over time. These issues are best identified with the use of underwater inspection class ROVs which allow more frequent inspections at a lower price point and without risk to divers, especially in high flow areas.
Hydropower plants can prove to be a challenging environment in which to perform visual inspections underwater. The high rates of water flow can create a significant amount of turbidity which clouds the water with so much suspended particulate matter that the water appears hazy or muddy. To navigate and map these surroundings, sonar is almost always a requirement. Inspection class ROVs are often outfitted with sonar imaging devices to give an accurate picture of dam walls or the bottom of a reservoir.
Inspecting dam walls:
Failure risks for dams is a very real concern for those living down river and in a very few cases have resulted in catastrophic loss of life. Regular inspection of dam walls, even after hydroelectric decommissioning, is a first line defense against failure risk. Checking for stress fractures, cracks, or other signs of degrading structural integrity can be accomplished through visual inspection with an ROV. ROVs are maneuverable and precise enough to travel up and down, or left and right along an inspection surface, and can stay underwater for the duration of a mission.
Environmental impact and monitoring studies
Every time a dam or reservoir is constructed there is an environmental impact to native wildlife and habitat. With the help of an inspection class ROV, plant owners and environmentalists alike can keep track of the impact and restoration efforts surrounding the construction, operation and decommissioning of a hydroelectric dam project.
Search & Recovery
An unfortunate reality of dam security is the unauthorized access by those unknowingly putting themselves at risk of injury or death. The combination of extreme heights and fast running water can end in disaster for those who don’t treat dams with caution. The ability to rapidly deploy underwater search and recovery operations using inspection class ROVs can greatly aid in times of need.
These are just a few of the ways inspection class ROVs can be used around hydropower. To learn more about Aquabotix and hydropower, visit us at HydroVision 2017 this week, June 27-29, 2017 in Denver, CO at the Colarado Convention Center, Booth #404.