The Igiugig Village Council (IVC) installed and operates a marine energy device, the ORPC RivGen® Power System, in the Kvichak River in Igiugig, Alaska. As required by IVC’s 2019 FERC license to operate the power system, a Fish Monitoring Plan was developed and implemented for collecting images from underwater cameras to assess the interaction of sockeye salmon with the RivGen Power System. The underwater camera system, however, has not performed reliably over the year-long deployment with multiple camera failures and issues with fiber optic communications occurring regularly.
In search of a solution to the problematic underwater camera system, IVC submitted a TEAMER application, “A Tow Body Optical Camera System (Project),” to develop an alternative and independent camera monitoring approach working with University of Washington. The proposed design would create a tow body for stabilized image acquisition that could be deployed over and adjacent to the turbine. The proposed tow body would be maintained in place by an anchored vessel, which would also record the data streamed by the camera system. The images would be used in EyeSea detection software developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The Project would focus on providing specifications and basic design for a system that would be able to obtain high resolution images for assessing fish interactions with a stationary and rotating turbine set. The ultimate goal, which extends beyond the scope of the application, would be to deploy the system in the Kvichak River during two critical fish migration periods—when sockeye salmon smolt move downriver and when adult sockeye salmon migrate upriver.
At Project completion, the tow body camera system was designed by University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory (UW-APL) design team for IVC. The design will allow for a wide range of viewing angles and deployment locations of the machine vision optical system for monitoring the RivGen turbine. This system may be deployed from a small vessel with minimal infrastructure or personnel requirements. If future funding is available to build and test the system, UW-APL will be able to perform all or part of the fabrication, assembly, and testing tasks. The cost of the system components, along with these tasks at UW-APL was included in the bill of materials. Similarly, software support for data acquisition and processing will be available through UW-APL or TEAMER network facility partner MarineSitu. Due to long lead times on some of the system components (particularly the underwater cabling and connectors) it was recommended to allow approximately four months for system delivery. In addition to the site-specific application at Igiugig, the UW-APL design is applicable to a wide range of uses as a stand-alone and deployable from any small vessel of opportunity. It may also be applied to many other optical monitoring use cases; optical monitoring of marine turbines is the best way to address regulatory concerns around animal interactions and advance the industry’s understanding of these risks.
Design of this tow body camera system was completed as proposed, except the completion date was delayed due to lack of personnel availability because of delays on prior unrelated projects. Regarding next steps that would build off completed work, IVC is considering applying to TEAMER for testing of the design and will search for additional funding to build the device.