Reclamation launches prize competition to improve reliability in hydropower facilities

The Bureau of Reclamation has launched the Automated Maintenance of Protection Systems Challenge to make power systems more reliable by automating maintenance testing of protective relays and associated potential and current transformers.

The prize competition will consist of two phases and has a total prize pool of $250,000.

The first phase will consist of solvers submitting a paper to demonstrate their knowledge of the problem, detail the approach they will use to solve the problem and describe how they will develop a prototype. Up to ten solutions will be selected to continue to the second phase of the competition and receive $10,000 each. The papers are due Sept. 3, 2021.

In the second phase, the solvers will develop their prototype, and Reclamation will test them. The overall winner will receive up to $100,000 and have the potential for a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or other technology transfer agreement to refine their solution further.

“Current testing protocols are labor-intensive and often require the hydropower plant to be offline,” said Senior Advisor for Hydropower Max Spiker. “The solutions will assist Reclamation hydropower facilities and other systems with protective relays to reduce downtime, increase plant safety and save time employees spend on testing.”

Reclamation is partnering with the Western Area Power Administration, Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, NASA Tournament Lab, Freelancer.com and Arrow Electronics on this prize competition.

Reclamation conducts prize competitions to spur innovation by engaging a non-traditional, problem-solver community. Through prize competitions, Reclamation complements traditional design research to target the most persistent science and technology challenges. It has awarded more than $3 million in prizes through 28 competitions in the past six years.

Reclamation is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior and is the largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the U.S.

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