Hydroelectric Plant Penstock Data Acquisition System Upgrade


When a custom-designed data acquisition system (DAS) at a hydroelectric plant in Northern California became outdated, the owner decided to install a new, upgraded system. The original DAS had been developed to monitor movement and performance of a 1,700-foot-long penstock, as well as the supporting slope, which was exhibiting signs of instability. The owner wanted to add sensors and instruments to monitor the penstock more closely, but the existing system could not be expanded. As well, it was costly to maintain and showing signs of unreliability.

To meet the client’s ongoing monitoring goals, our firm designed, programmed, and installed an upgraded DAS to replace the original system. We worked hand in hand with the client’s asset managers, engineers, facility maintenance and operation personnel, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)/information technology (IT) groups during the design phase. The end result is an improved system tailor-made to meet specific monitoring, security, power supply, and data management requirements.

What We Did

The new DAS employs a network of eight data loggers to measure 80 sensors, including piezometers, weir monitors, extensometers, load cells, and tiltmeters, that provide real-time data on penstock conditions. The data collected by the sensor array is sent to a remote server, where it is stored in a database that engineers can query to evaluate trends using straightforward, built-in plotting tools. The server also emails reports every day showing two-week and two-year trends.

An industrial-grade, uninterrupted power supply (UPS) provides the DAS with a reliable source of power and sustains data collection during planned and unplanned outages. Additional multiplexers increase the expandability of the DAS so new sensors can be added as necessary. Our rope access team, certified to Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) standards, installed the new equipment and sensors along the penstock piping and at expansion joints, located at great height in steep terrain.

Sage Engineers, prior to joining Gannett Fleming, completed this project.

Key Features

  • New DAS uses radio communications, replacing long data cables vulnerable to rockfall damage.
  • Custom programming logic and vibrating-wire measurement technology reduces noise spikes and false alarms due to local environmental electrical noise.
  • Integration with SCADA makes measurements and critical alarm states visible to operators.


  • Continuous monitoring of penstock performance and water movement.
  • Instant notification of changing conditions that require operator attention.
  • Expandability to increase monitoring capabilities by adding sensors.




Northern California



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