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How to Ace a FERC Hydropower Dam Inspection [NEW]

Posted by Rory Alsberg on September 01, 2020

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity in the United States. An important duty of FERC is to monitor conditions of the more than 1,700 non-federal, electricity-generating dams in the US. They also set standards that hydropower project owners must follow to ensure the safety of the general public. This includes mandating regular inspections of hydropower projects to certify they are in sound condition and comply with the Commission’s safety standards. Owners not in compliance with the Commission’s inspection standards risk losing their power generating license.

1.) Know Part 12 Regulations

FERC regulations mandate stringent physical inspections of hydroelectric facilities every five years, known as FERC Part 12. The Commission will mandate that a private dam owner retain an independent engineering firm or contractor from FERC’s list of federally approved consultants to perform these inspections, and (if necessary) make repairs that are revealed by their inspection.

Brennan completing a survey of a hydroelectric dam

There are several parts to a hydroelectric project. Therefore, inspections must cover everything from the integrity of the structure to the functionality of the spillway gates. Some areas are easy to access, and some areas may require specialty personnel or equipment to access. Since the dam is a water-based structure, knowledgeable commercial divers with underwater imaging experience are needed to inspect everything that lies underwater.

 2.) Hire a Good Contractor for Underwater Dam Inspections

An underwater inspection is only as good as the inspector. Brennan is on FERC’s list of approved underwater inspectors. We are hired directly by a dam owner, or in some cases we will partner with an engineering firm and provide the underwater portion of a structural inspection. One of the advantages of having a contractor perform the dive inspection is they have specialized underwater construction experience. Dam owners and their engineers have confidence that our work experience enables us to detect and quantify problematic features such as degraded concrete or scour.

Brennan commercial diver inspecting underwater structures

An important part of a successful inspection is a quality report. The report is the only record that the project owner and engineers will have to assess the condition of the dam. Once the report is completed, it becomes a historical record that will be referred to for years. The report must be clearly written and detailed; including drawings, pictures, videos, and detailed written assessments must all be included. Underwater acoustic imaging, ROVs, and video footage can also be valuable inspection resources, especially within the confined spaces of a dam. Our underwater imaging equipment and operating professionals can document the inspected areas, without putting a diver’s safety at risk.

Brennan ROV equipment for dam inspections

 3.) Determine a Strategy for Hydropower Dam Repairs

To comply with FERC’s Part 12 regulations, hydropower dam owners must determine a strategy and schedule to repair issues found during the inspection process. Two important elements needed to create a regulatory compliant strategy include: identification of issues found during the inspections and then quantification of those problematic areas.

Hiring a good contractor results in good recommendations. Based on our inspection, we’re able to recommend the specific repairs and budget needed to repair problematic areas. We work closely and transparently with owners and their engineer to develop a cost-effective solution for any necessary repair work. We can help determine which repairs are critical and which areas should be monitored during future inspections.

Brennan commercial dive team inspecting a hydroelectric dam

 A Valuable Resource for Hydropower Project Owners

When it comes to FERC inspection requirements, hydropower project owners and engineers can find that contractors are a valuable resource. Marine contractors like Brennan specialize in working on and around dam facilities of all sizes, types and age. Because we work on these structures every day, we understand the risks and manage them accordingly. By working together with a FERC-approved contractor you will have confidence in your inspection, reporting, and repair strategy for years to come.

Dam repairs and maintenance are critical to power generation, here are our key areas of focus.

Topics: Dam Construction, Marine Construction, Lock and Dams, Dam Repairs, Dive Inspections, Infrastructure, Underwater Inspection, Hydro

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