March 13, 2018

Hoover Dam Gets a Data Upgrade

George Leopold

As water supplies decline in seemingly direct proportion to the amount of data that can be used to conserve it and other precious resources, the operators of the iconic Hoover Dam will employ operational analytics to help extend the nation’s critical water and energy infrastructure.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that manages Hoover, Davis and Parker dams along the Colorado River said it would deploy an operational intelligence system from OSIsoft at all three installations. The system captures data from pumps, valves and pressure sensors, incorporating that data with weather forecasts to adjust power output, anticipate maintenance and generally boost the efficiency of the two Depression-era dams (Davis Dam was completed in 1953) that combined serve 2 million power and 25 million water customers.

OSIsoft, an application software vendor based in San Leandro, Calif., specializing in real-time data management, also said Tuesday (March 13) the Western Area Power Administration will use its flagship PI System to distribute hydro-generated power to utilities in the southwest U.S.

The data management upgrade underscores efforts to extend the lifetimes and extract more value from existing infrastructure. Hoover, Davis and Parker dams power 26 turbines with a combined capacity of approximately 2.4 gigawatts. On average, the dams generate enough electricity for more than 2 million people. Lake Mead and reservoirs created by the dam complex provide water to over 25 million people and businesses in California, Arizona, Nevada, Native American communities and Mexico.

The modernization effort also is driven by declining water levels on Lake Mead, which have dropped more than 100 feet since 2000. As a result, operators have been turning to data management software to squeeze more power and water out of aging infrastructure that is unlikely to be replaced anytime soon.

“By serving up real time information on operating performance, power demand, asset conditions and cybersecurity, the PI System will help Bureau engineers better match power production with demand, minimize water losses and improve visibility of operations,” said Steve Sarnecki, vice president of OSIsoft’s federal unit.

Proponents of the technology argued that real-time data management is among the new ways hydro power can compete with wind and other renewable energy sources. As water levels continue to drop on Lake Mead and its reservoirs, OSIsoft said the federal agencies also can use its data platform to track demand variations and water levels while combining that data with information on changing weather patterns.

Requirements for that capability is likely to grow in demand as the frequency of extreme weather events increases.

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