Revolutionizing Water Reservoir Management: Automated Sediment Removal

46 Submissions
169 Views
$30,000 USD
Challenge under evaluation

Challenge overview

OVERVIEW

A2A, the Seeker for this Challenge, wants to revolutionize the management of water reservoirs for hydroelectric power plants by creating a system that would allow a completely autonomous way to remove sediment—or, at the very least, a system that would require only minimal human intervention via remote control.

Sediment accumulation reduces available water storage in a reservoir, which limits the reservoir’s ability to meet its critical operational objectives. The removal of sediment therefore becomes a critical factor to effective management of reservoirs.

Currently available methods of sediment removal, while reasonably effective, pose significant logistical problems that require extensive human intervention. Switching to a completely autonomous system of sediment removal will result in significant increase in the efficiency of reservoir management and substantial cost savings.

This is a Prize Challenge which requires a written proposal to be submitted. Awards will be contingent upon the theoretical evaluation of the proposal by A2A. For this Prize Challenge, Solvers are required to transfer all rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) in their proposed solution, to be awarded. A2A is also willing to consider a non-exclusive transfer for a partial award if exclusive IP cannot be transferred by the Solver.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on January 30, 2024.

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ABOUT THE SEEKER & ELIGIBILITY

The A2A Group is the largest Italian multi-utility, at the forefront of territorial services and technological solutions. We design smart and sustainable cities, with respect for the citizens, we are protagonists of energy transition, and we implement the principle of the circular economy in all our activities. With a far-reaching strategic plan, we manage the generation, sale and distribution of electricity and gas, district heating, waste collection and recovery, e-mobility, public lighting, and the integrated water services.

Employees of A2A are ineligible to receive an award for this Challenge.

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THE CHALLENGE

Background

A2A is the second largest hydroelectric power producer in Italy, with installed hydroelectric capacity of 2 GW and ~30 water reservoirs under management.

 Central to effective management of the reservoirs is sediment removal: sediment accumulation reduces available water storage, which limits the reservoir’s ability to meet its critical operational objectives.  

 A2A manages five major groups of hydroelectric power plants in three regions: Lombardy, Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Calabria. All power plants are of storage-reservoir type, which depend on water accumulation from a river supply network.  

Depending on the location, the reservoirs have different characteristics, but their major technical features are:

  • Depth: the depth of the reservoir varies between 4 and 123 m. (Please, note that the depth can vary within the reservoir itself by as many as 12-123 m). 
  • Surface area: the reservoirs have an average surface area of 2.8 km2 with a typical width of 400-1000 m.  
  • Slope: given that some reservoirs are in the mountain areas (with an altitude of about 1,900 m), the reservoir bank slope can reach up to 30%.
  • Water capacity: the largest reservoir under management has a maximum water capacity of 120 million cubic meters.  

Sediment removal process 

Sediment accumulation varies between 2,000 and 70,000 m3 per year (~27,000 m3 on average). Most of the sediment is composed of sand and silt. Typically, it takes about a few months to reach the highest sediment accumulation level.

Three major sediment removal processes are currently used:

  • Flushing. Flushing is a process of using water streams (often with the help of machinery, such as excavators and hydraulic pumps) to move the sediment through the open lower-level gate of the dam, allowing the water and sediment to flow into downstream rivers. Flushing is efficient for handling moderate amounts of sediment. However, the turbid water released into downstream water ecosystem may represent an environmental risk.
  • Mechanical removal. After emptying reservoir of water, the sediment is removed by special machines and deposited in piles near the reservoir. The sediment is then loaded into trucks and driven away. 
  • Dredging. This is a process of removing sediment from the bottom of the reservoir using machines—usually dredges or vacuum systems supported by a boat—while keeping the water level stable (that is, without completely emptying the reservoir). The collected sediment is then loaded into trucks and driven away. 

It must be emphasized that following mechanical removal and dredging, the sediment needs to be transported away, usually at the distance of at least a few kilometres, which may pose formidable logistical problems given the reservoir location, not to mention the need for substantial human intervention.

To learn more about sediment removal process, watch the following videos:

To overcome the shortcomings of the existing approaches to sediment removal, A2A wants to create a system capable of performing this process in a completely autonomous way—or, at the very least, with only minimal human intervention via remote control. Critically important will be the ability of the system to avoid water loss in the reservoir, so that energy production at a given power plant remain stable.

SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS

A desired solution to this Challenge will be a comprehensive document that describes the principles of operation, structure, layout, and detailed characteristics of the proposed system (hardware and software), along with all necessary components (sensors, accessories, logistic elements, etc.).

A2A is open to any innovative approach for as long as the proposed solution meets the following Solution Requirements:  

Must have: 

  1. The proposed system must bealways available to begin sediment removal as the need arises.
  2. The proposed system must be portable and adaptable in the sense that its components could be used at any power plant without significant additional modifications.  
  3. The proposed system must maintain the turbidity level of the water after the intervention the same as before the intervention.
  4. The proposed system must have the possibility to work either completely autonomously (following preset programmed instructions) or be controlled remotely at a minimum distance of 400 m and up to 125 m underwater.
  5. The solution must prioritize the sediment removal from the critical spots.
  6. The capital installation cost of the proposed system must not exceed €500,000.  

Nice-to-have: 

  1. An ideal proposed solution would address the sediment storage issue to facilitate the process once the sediment is collected. An added value would be to introduce a new way to reuse collected sediments.
  2. An ideal proposed solution will be able to autonomously map the water floor, process the acquired information, collect sediments, and deposit them. 
  3. An ideal proposed solution will ensure the collection of other sediments, such as small rocks and pieces of wood (e.g. logs and branches). 
  4. An ideal proposed solution will ensure that the system could operate in any meteorological condition of the reservoir (e.g. floods, snowstorm, etc.) 

However, A2A will not accept solutions:

  1. That can remove only solid materials such as rocks and trunks.
  2. That results in waste of water from the reservoir.
  3. That releases any type of hazardous substance (solid or liquid) into the reservoir. 

Solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 3-5 are invited.

This is a Prize Challenge, which has the following features: 

  1. The best solution in this Prize Challenge has the opportunity to win the award of $30,000 if you meet all requirements, as solely determined by A2A. 
  2. Awards will be contingent upon the theoretical evaluation of the proposal by A2A.  
  3. For this Prize Challenge, Solvers are required to transfer all rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) in their proposed solution, to be awarded. A2A is willing to consider non-exclusive IP rights for a partial award. 

A2A may also issue “Honourable Mention” recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary awards. 

YOUR SUBMISSION

Please login and register your interest, to complete the submission form.

The submitted proposals must be written in English and can include:

  1. Participation type – you will first be asked to inform us how you are participating in this challenge, as a Solver (Individual) or Solver (Organization).
  2. Solution Stage - the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of your solution, TRL1-3 ideation stage, TRL4-6 proof of concept stage, TRL7-9 production ready stage.
  3. Problem & Opportunity - highlight the innovation in your approach to the Problem, its point of difference, and the specific advantages/benefits this brings (up to 500 words).
  4. Solution Overview - detail the features of your solution and how they address the Solution Requirements and add supporting data, diagrams, etc. as attachments (500 words).
  5. Experience - Expertise, use cases and skills you or your organization have in relation to your proposed solution. A2A may wish to partner at the conclusion of the Challenge; please include a statement indicating your interest in partnering (up to 500 words).
  6. Solution Risks - any risks you see with your solution and how you would plan for this (up to 500 words).
  7. Timeline, capability and costs - describe what you think is required to deliver the solution, estimated time and cost (up to 500 words).
  8. References - provide links to any publications or press releases of relevance (up to 500 words).

Wazoku encourages the use by Solvers of AI approaches to help develop their submissions, though any produced solely with generative AI are not of interest.

Find out more about participation in Wazoku Crowd Challenges.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on January 30, 2024.

Late submissions will not be considered.

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted at the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, A2A will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s) according to the timeline in the Challenge header. All Solvers who submit a proposal will be notified about the status of their submissions.

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