When the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) decided to step up its efforts to proactively identify rockslide hot spots, it turned to its partners at Silent Security Solutions and Olson Engineering for assistance. Combined, these partners were able to offer CDOT the monitoring technology to improve rockslide detection, however, the implementation of this technology faced a huge hurdle: How do you reliably and cost-effectively provide power to equipment on the side of a mountain?
Identifying rockslide hot spots lets CDOT proactively tackle a real problem. Not only do rockslides present a real danger to drivers, damage caused by falling rocks is costly. In 2010, a rock fell on I-70, a major highway through Colorado, and caused enough damage to close the road for four months, creating an expensive, logistical nightmare for commerce and traffic.
The technology to monitor for rockslide potential exists, but powering that technology is a challenge; monitoring equipment is located on the side of a mountain, in an area only accessible by helicopter. Each helicopter trip to change the equipment’s batteries costs $1500, making the regular use of the equipment cost-prohibitive.
Solar power, a typical choice for remote applications, isn’t an option: The amount of power required for the equipment exceeds what can be routinely produced through solar power. Generators provide more power than the equipment needs, pose environmental risks, require maintenance, and produce unwanted odors and noise.
Ultra Electronics, AMI (AMI) provided Olson Engineering with the perfect power solution: A 250-watt fuel cell system that can tend the batteries required to run the monitoring equipment. Field-tested by the military in the most austere locations in the world, AMI fuel cells can easily tolerate the mountain’s harsh conditions.
Compared to a generator, AMI’s fuel cell is a green option: It creates no noise pollution and doesn’t present a risk for spilled fuel. AMI’s fuel cell is more reliable than solar and is ideal for applications that require consistent power.
The AMI fuel cell system is powered by inexpensive and energy dense propane. On a small tank of propane, it can operate in battery tending mode for months, removing the logistical barriers to providing power to the rockslide equipment. Propane is available anywhere, is safe and easy to transport, and lightweight.
AMI’s fuel cells, currently in beta testing by CDOT, have reliably, constantly and without refueling powered the rockslide monitoring equipment for months on commercially available canisters of propane.