The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its collaborators are seeking devices to provide direct current power for loads of up to 20 watts to electronic instruments on rotating shafts for hydropower generating units. Presently, no practical methods exist for continuously powering these instruments on a rotating shaft. Solutions can be novel approaches or can build upon existing methods or technologies. The total prize purse for this reduction to practice challenge is $250,000.
This is a two-phase Reduction-to-Practice Challenge that requires (Phase 1) written documentation, proof-of-concept data and, (Phase 2, if requested by the Seeker) sample/prototype delivery for experimental validation.
Reclamation is the second largest hydropower producer in the nation, operating 53 powerplants with a generation capacity of 14,730 megawatts and more than 40 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity produced annually. Reclamation’s hydropower generating units are expected to safely and reliably produce the power that is delivered to the western electric grid.
Monitoring these generators provides a critical advancement toward keeping these units operational and reducing costly outages – in a small power plant, an unforeseen outage can result in an opportunity cost of $30,000 per day per unit; for a large power plant, this cost can be up to $800,000 per day per unit. However, the monitoring instruments require a continuous power source in order to keep them online and performing their key role. New solutions are needed to permanently install low-power instruments on a rotating shaft in order to collect continuous data pertinent to generator operation and performance.
Presently, the available power sources for electronic instruments on rotating shafts include batteries and contact solutions. Powering the electronic instruments with a battery does not provide continuous operation and requires generator downtime to replace the batteries, resulting in lost power generation. Existing contact solutions for this application, such as slip rings, have unacceptable installation and maintenance requirements because their components in physical contact degrade over time. Non-contact solutions include emerging technologies, such as wireless energy transfer, that may prove beneficial but are not yet developed for this application.
Reclamation and our collaborators seek novel methods and technologies to reliably provide direct current power for loads of up to 20 watts (20 W) to electronic instruments on rotating shafts. Proposed solutions must be applicable to rotating shafts that are 18- to 144-inch diameter, whether during rotation (72 to 550 rpm), standstill, before generator rotation begins or after it ends. We seek new devices or significant improvements to existing methods and technologies, as long as the improvements offer substantial enhancement.
ABOUT THE COLLABORATORS
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration are collaborating with Reclamation on various aspects of this Challenge such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion.