With the effects of climate change affecting our environment by increasing extreme weather events, it has become more and more important to maintain dam structures in perfect shape.
It is essential to invest in efficient flood mitigation measures to improve dam safety proactively especially in densely populated areas. The increased precipitation in the Northern hemisphere keeps hydropower reservoirs full, making hydropower act also as a reserve for peak energy demands in times when other renewable energy sources are scarce. While offering the benefits of renewable energy production, large dams, if poorly managed or due to old age, increase challenges in the energy production and pose safety risks to communities in the close proximity of dams.
Enhancing in Dam Safety with Sonar Surveys
Safe use of dams and extended life-cycle of hydropower structures are issues that are sensitive to surprises. Ensuring the maximum safety and functionality of the structures requires up-to-date knowledge about the condition of plants, as the lack of data can lead to costly miscalculations or sudden shutdowns of hydropower plants. The possibilities of modern technology have introduced non-intrusive multibeam sonar scanning as a cost-efficient and detailed method of gaining knowledge about the structural conditions, revealing even the murkiest underwater views with accurate 3D representation.
With the collaboration of many years with the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre), we have delved into creating more effective and safer methods for inspecting the dam structures. Already in 2015 we assisted the Finnish authorities in evaluating different inspection methods as a worldwide pioneer in underwater structural inspections with multibeam sonars (you can download the report here). Lately, as the knowledge spreads, also other countries have introduced sonar inspections to their dam inspection repertory.
– Compared internationally, the legislation and monitoring of dam safety in Finland has reached a very good level. We have clear laws and policies. The process is fairly similar for example in Norway. However, a significant part of Finnish dams are already relatively old, which increases the need of structural inspections and repairs further over the next years, Eija Isomäki, Dam Safety Expert at Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, summarises.
Sustainable Energy Production Is a Global Interest
The 86th annual meeting of ICOLD (International Commission on Large Dams) was arranged in Vienna, Austria in 2-5 July. Our dam safety experts attended the event with ELY Centre and other Finnish dam technology companies. The event gathered together 1500 industry experts and scientists to discuss about dam safety and sustainable use of the water resources. The unique approach to underwater asset management offered by modern sonar high-end technology gained wide interest among participants from all over the world.
– It was great to change experiences about dam safety procedures with professionals from different backgrounds. The common challenges seem to be in 3D data management and comparison of different datasets. Luckily that’s our expertise; we have already helped dozens of hydropower companies to inspect their essential dam structures and wisely utilise the inspection results in long-term maintenance. Hopefully in the future we can be of assistance with many more as the officials gain information about sonar inspections and its benefits in hydropower industry, says Ville Mäkeläinen, Client Executive at VRT.