Fiber optic cable installation within operational hydroelectric canals

Collaboration with Enel

Challenge overview


Do you have a solution that can install cables in canals in hydroelectric plants during operation? The pipeline systems at these renewable plants can stretch to tens of kilometers, may be pressurized, and have limited access. Your system or solution for cable installation will preserve resources, reduce outages, and ensure continued generation of renewable energy.

We invite your proposals for effective and reusable methods of cable installation.

This is an electronic Request-for-Partners (eRFP) Challenge; the Solver will need to submit a written proposal to be evaluated by Enel Green Power  with the goal of establishing a collaborative partnership.

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To continue its work in renewable energy, Enel Green Power is looking to improve the efficiency and sustainability of cable installation, helping to interconnect the hydraulic plant parts and optimize its management. Enel is looking for proposals or solutions for installing fiber optic cables in waterways that are in tunnel and in-use, applicable across different pressures, canal shapes, and lengths.

The canals that interconnect a hydroelectric plant may span multiple kilometers, as well as being either pressurized or open-flow, and away from urban areas/in mountainous regions. Enel see these waterways as providing an opportunity for a connected solution – linking various parts of the plant through a fiber optic network that can be leveraged for monitoring, maintenance, and reporting.

However, currently these canals would need to be emptied of water to install cables and perform maintenance checks. Enel Green Power is therefore looking for proposals around the best available solutions to install cables within in-use canals in tunnel either pressurized or open-flow. In partnership with Enel, your approach will preserve resources, maintain a critical renewable source, and unlock greater sustainability in operation.

This Challenge contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • SDG 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation


Hydroelectric plants and dams are a critical part of the future of renewable energy, representing an estimated 40% of total renewable capacity according to the World Economic Forum. These installations are often complex, covering great distances, and varying in sizes.

The canals that bring water to a plant differ in accessibility but are always accessible from the ends. Enel Green Power is looking for a system to unify and optimize cable installation across canal types by implementing a method to install fiber optic in canals in tunnel while plants are in-use.

Installation of fiber optic cables normally requires many days of outage: operators need to overcome access issues, distance, and the limiting criteria of the canals themselves. It also results in a relative waste of water, lack of energy produced, and can mean the work itself is unsustainable.

The Challenge

Enel Green Power is searching for new technologies, systems, methods, and proposals of innovative systems that can install a fiber optic cable inside the canals of hydroelectric plants, without removing the water or ceasing operations.

Improving the method for installation will not only save time and preserve resources, but this network of cables will provide fast and reliable communication across the plants. Being better connected to remote areas allows for greater remote-control systems and video streams, as well as potential development of damage monitoring and leakage detection.

Your proposal, method, solution, or technology should address the solution requirements and provide the potential for development of a monitoring system for damage and leakages.

Figure 1: Hydraulic scheme, example of a non-pressurized canal

Figure 2: Canals in tunnel either pressurized or open-flow

Figures 3, 4, and 5: examples of Enel canals.


Technical Criteria

Your system and proposal should be applicable in different contexts, canal types, and comply with the maximum range of pressure/lengths of waterways. We list more information, potentially limiting criteria, and necessary operating conditions below:

  • Cost per meter of system for cable installation – proposal must remain competitive with existing financial implications of plant shutdown
  • Canals in tunnels have dimensions of up to 20 square meters, and lengths of tens of kilometers
  • Material – water canals are mostly made of concrete or steel
  • Canals in tunnel are often pressurized – up to 20 bar
  • Cables must remain submerged
  • System cable installed must contain 12 x 9/125 optical fibers for compatibility with Enel network equipment
  • Temperature of water is usually around 10C, but varies by 10 degrees with seasonal, location, and night temperatures.



Your proposed solution or approach must:

  • Lay fiber-optic cable under flowing water
  • Fix these cables under flowing water,
  • Be able to be installed without the need to stop plant operations or empty the waterway,
  • Not affect normal operation or output of plant when in place,
  • Be reusable in different types of canals, with small customizations,
    • Canals in tunnel may contain curves, cross-sectional variations, varying pressures, and widths.
  • Not constitute a danger to machinery or operators – either in use or if it breaks away.

Enel is interested in areas for developing damage monitoring capabilities, so for greater chance of selection, your proposal might also fulfil these nice-to-have requirements:

  • Leakage monitoring capability,
  • Cable potential for identifying damage in the waterways,
  • Reporting this damage to a system,
  • Determine the location and extent of the damage,
  • Leakage monitoring.


For questions about the Challenge and your proposal you can contact


Explain your proposal clearly in English, attach documents (max 5 files, 25MB total size) if needed.

This is an electronic Request-for-Partners (eRFP) Challenge; the Solver will need to submit a written proposal to be evaluated by the Seeker with a goal of establishing a collaborative partnership.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (Central European Time) on May 29, 2023.


ABOUT THE SEEKER             

Enel is a multinational energy company and one of the world’s leading integrated electricity and gas operators. Enel works in more than 30 countries across five continents, generating energy with a total installed capacity of more than 89 GW, selling gas and distributing electricity across a network spanning approximately 2.2 million km.

With almost 75 million end users around the world, Enel has the biggest customer base among our European competitors, and we are one of Europe’s leading energy companies by installed capacity.

Enel Green Power (EGP)is the Enel Group company focused on the development and management of renewable energy generation. EGP is a world leader in the development and management of energy production from renewable sources with a global presence in 26 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania (active projects in 21 countries while projects under development in 5 countries). EGP operates more than 1,200 plants with a managed capacity of 56 GW across a generation mix that includes wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric and is at the forefront of integrating innovative technologies into renewable energy power plants. EGP enables communities, companies and end users to move towards a sustainable life, guiding the transition towards a decarbonised society and contributing to the development and well-being of the many geographical areas in which it operates. EGP aims to accelerate the energy transition towards renewable sources, aiming to reach 75GW of installed renewable capacity in 2025 worldwide. In parallel, the abandonment of coal by 2027 and gas by 2040 is also foreseen.

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