With hundreds of millions of miles of electrical cables worldwide buried beneath our feet, the need to maintain and look after this critical infrastructure is essential to our daily lives. As the cables age, it is important to monitor these cables to allow for proactive maintenance and provide a safe environment for those who work to ensure we have the electrical power needed for today's connected society. The Duquesne Light Company (DLC) is searching for novel solutions to monitor and detect precursors to failure in underground Medium Voltage Power Cables. Where possible, the goal is to discover and develop new methods of monitoring cable health that can be performed remotely, at a distance, or in a safer manner than some manual strategies. For this reason, surveying the crowd for a variety of new solutions holds great potential for DLC.
In light of this, DLC has launched the $750,000, three phase "Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge: The Future of Underground Inspection." This exciting challenge is looking for solutions for monitoring the health of Paper Insulated (PILC), Solid Dielectric (EPR), and systems with a combination of both cable types to enable proactive maintenance of DLC's underground electrical network and provide an ever safer environment for customers, employees, and the public. In addition to the prize money, winners will work with DLC on a contract to deploy the technology across an underground electrical grid. Due to the immense scope of this challenge, the challenge participation process has been divided into three phases of increasing complexity: starting with initial ideation, proceeding through prototyping, and concluding with actual field tests.
Phase 1 of this challenge concluded with a strong assortment of proposed solutions, ranging from passive to active methods of monitoring cable health and most promising a substantial improvement to the status quo. After the judging process sorted through the 24 challenge entries, five semi-finalists were selected to receive $10,000 each in prizes and to proceed to Phase 2 of the challenge. In Phase 2, the five semi-finalists will develop a prototype version of their solution. Each semi-finalist will receive an additional $50,000 to support solution development and will have nine months to build their prototypes and submit testing data. Finally, up to two finalists will receive $100,000 and be invited to Phase 3.