“SRP is proud to invest in projects with our state universities to not only encourage innovation but also find ways to improve our day-to-day operations,” said Chico Hunter, SRP’s Manager of Innovation and Development. “The advantage of working with university students on real-world issues and solutions is these talented individuals could be a part of our future workforce.”
SRP is working on 24 projects with ASU, seven with NAU and five with UArizona. These projects range from forest thinning and wildfire detection to electric vehicle charging and energy demand prediction and response. Below are descriptions of select projects SRP has invested in with the three universities.
Turning plastic waste from old electrical cables into concrete | University of Arizona
Each year, SRP recycles about 3 million pounds of old electrical cables. SRP and UArizona researchers have found the plastic coating from these cables can be used to produce concrete with promising testing results. Cables are stripped, fed through a conveyor belt, chopped and sorted at SRP’s facility before being added to concrete. Now in the third phase, SRP and the University of Arizona are looking into how and where the concrete can be used in the field.
Flying drones and taking infrared images to identify water loss in underground pipes | Northern Arizona University
Two master’s students from the NAU Department of Mechanical Engineering are testing the viability of thermal-based water leakage detection of SRP’s cast-in-place-pipes (CIPPs). Pinpointing cracks and leaks in these underground pipes can be difficult, although this practice is vital for ensuring efficient water delivery. These pipes transport water from the canals to a variety of water customers, including city water treatment plants, before they supply drinking water to nearly 2.5 million homes. Using drone-based infrared imagery, the students were able to detect heat signatures from abnormal surface soil moisture from leaking pipes without shutting the pipeline down for inspections. It’s an important first step in fixing or replacing leaking pipes, which could help save water in SRP’s service territory. The group is embarking on a second phase of this project which will include further drone tests and using software to analyze the aerial imagery for indications of leaks.
Using latest technology to proactively maintain SRP’s hydropower fleet | Arizona State University
Student researchers studying under Assistant Professor Thomas Czerniawski at ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment are conducting two SRP grant-funded studies focused on preserving and maintaining value of the hydropower assets on SRP’s watershed. The first involves using lidar technology to thoroughly assess wear and tear on the hydropower turbines at Horse Mesa and Mormon Flat dams – some of these turbines have been on SRP’s system since the 1970’s and weigh upwards of 40 tons. ASU researchers are using high-definition images to better assess life cycle of these assets and develop timelines for when maintenance will be required and when ultimate replacement of the asset is needed.
Another team under Professor Czerniawski is using Digital Twin technology to conduct detailed modeling of SRP’s hydropower assets. Their goal is to create a “Level 3 Predictive Twin” potentially setting a new standard for proactive maintenance and modernization across SRP’s hydropower fleet. Digital Twin technology uses a blend of physical asset models and data analytics that mimics the behavior of a real generation resource, enabling insights through simulations. This information could help SRP improve the function and lifespan of its power generation assets as well as safety objectives across multiple SRP divisions.