Hydro control

Hydro-Control Systems: Superior Performance and Safety

Many dams and hydro-control systems have reached an age that is making replacement or refurbishment a necessity. These systems were built with older technologies that can be replaced with newer technologies and designs that can provide higher safety and performance.

The Bear-Loc® hydraulic locking system is a solution for the Hydro Energy Generation industry that can help optimize generation control system performance, reduce turbine maintenance costs, prevent losses in revenues due to maintenance downtimes, and extend service life of equipment investments.

A hydroelectric dam has electric generators that spin to generate energy. The generator connects to a turbine propeller. The dam provides flowing water to rotate the propeller, which turns the generator to produce electrical energy. A hydroelectric plant might have a few or dozens of these turbines. Bear-Loc® can be an enhanced solution to any dam or hydro control system design to control the gates and valves that determine the water flow rates for electric generation.  This helps support real-time energy market balancing and modernization.

dam schematics hydraulic rod lock
dam flow schematics

An electrical power grid is fed by many sources of electrical power generation.  Hydro-power generation tends to be the most flexible in the ability to provide sudden increase or decrease in power supply into the power grid.  When the grid has high demand on power, hydro power can run at full generation capability.  When the grid suddenly drops in demand, hydro power can quickly be reduced to reduce the power entering the grid.  Power plants are modernizing control systems to provide this rapid flexibility to the demand for power.  The control systems operate numerous generators to balance the electrical demand assigned to the electric generation plant.

Bear-Loc® can benefit hydro energy generation in a dam by combining full safety mechanical locking power and infinite position. The Bear-Loc® allows for the control system to open an intake gate to any position and have full locking power at that position to ensure gates remain secure and do not move and change power production levels.

Dams with hydroelectric turbines contain automated control systems that include hydraulic power actuator cylinders. These control systems measure and control water flow rates that determine the turbine speed and the dam's electrical output. They use actuators that control gates or large control valves.  These actuators have mechanical locks installed to secure gates and prevent sudden flow rate changes that could damage equipment investments or cause unscheduled maintenance and revenue loss.  These mechanical locks that are installed generally only have several fixed or "step" locking positions.  They tend to either lock at their fully open or closed position or a couple set locations along the cylinder rod travel and this means the gate must travel to these preset locking points to be secured. These locks limit the ability to provide precision control of gate position and the resulting power generation.

The Bear-Loc® has full locking power provided at any point in stroke.  This means the gate or valve can be positioned at any point in stroke and not preset locations.  This allows precision adjustment of single turbine flow rates or multiple turbine flow rates to meet exact power generation needs.  It does not require a mix of generators being combined with their preset locking positions until it creates a balance for the output of the total dam power.  It can simply be done by a linear curve from linear gate positioning by one, a few, or all generators being increased together in uniform flow.  The power plant can reach a precise total output value faster and with less turbines being involved.  It can also operate all turbines running at a lower and equal load at the same time to produce a total output.  This smooths out power generation curves for both individual generators and all the generators for the whole hydro-power plant.

Using Bear-Loc for precision power generation control coupled with its fail-safe gate locking and safety is Game Changing.

This type of control gives generation plants the ability to run generators at any partial flow position rather than full flow positions.  When the power demand is reduced, rather than running several generators at full load to meet the plant need, all generators can run at a low load and equal flow rate and share the overall dam production requirements.  The turbines can increase in power linearly and have a linear plant output at any level of demand. This allows all generators to run at lower temperature and at a lower production load rate when lower demand warrants it. This facilitates longer service life of high-cost equipment and less maintenance costs for their lifecycle.  Revenues are preserved and operating costs reduced.

Desiring More Operational Time, and Less Maintenance Time? Consider Adding Bear-Loc to your Control System.

hydro-electric turbines
turbine maintenance
Discover a new level of hydro control system

Superior Design for Hydro-Control Safety

Hydraulic system failure in a water control system has the potential to cause injury and catastrophic damage to human lives, entire communities, infrastructure and equipment. Engineers have a vested interest in developing safe, reliable hydraulic systems with fail-safe locking devices to minimize adverse effects in daily operations or during natural disasters and emergencies.

The Bear-Loc® positive hydraulic lock is a solution civil and architectural design engineers can rely on to provide locking safety and enhanced locking performance that is superior to other hydraulic locking devices. Bear-Loc® is a safe, efficient, and dependable rod locking device consisting of liners encased in a sleeve that is mounted on a cylinder rod. The sleeve creates an interference fit with the hydraulic cylinder rod.  The interference generates a positive mechanical connection. These locks can be installed on cylinder rods or be installed as stand-alone lock.

rod lock

      A Cylinder Integrated Bear-Loc

Hydraulic Rod Lock

A Stand-Alone Bear-Loc

This positive mechanical connection is what enables Bear-Loc® to lock the rod in place. When the hydraulic pressure is removed, whether intentionally or not, the sleeve contracts and the Bear-Loc® instantly engages to hold the rod firmly in place, stopping its motion at once.  All hydraulic fluid can be lost yet the Bear-Loc® will retain its position. When hydraulic pressure is present, the sleeve expands due to elastic expansion of the sleeve metal and removes the interference. The lack of interference allows the rod to move freely.  This design has proven itself through decades of continuous use through harsh sub-sea and above-sea environments such as oil-rig and US NAVY applications.

Case Study: Bear-Loc® in Action at Castaic Power Plant

A Bear-Loc® unit has recently been refurbished at the Los Angeles Department of Water Resources' Castaic Power Plant! View the full case study below.

ladwp case study image

Discover a New Level of Hydro Control Safety

Flood control is essential for ensuring community safety as well as preventing structural damage in hydroelectric systems. There are over 90,580 dams in the United States and over 15,500 of them are rated as high-hazard potential dams by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  There are tens of millions of citizens that can be effected by their ability to prevent flooding.

Power loss in a control system's hydraulic cylinder, whether intentional or unintentional, removes fluid power pressure and can cause equipment to malfunction.  Bear-Loc® responds immediately to the loss of hydraulic pressure — its fail-safe mechanism locks instantly and ensure hydro control safety is maintained as the hydraulic control actuators are able to maintain position and guarantee safety to communities, infrastructure and other property.


Below are a few civil engineering applications in which Bear-Loc® functions to ensure safety and equipment protection.

1. Flood Control and Prevention

Bear-Loc® can be used on hydro control mechanisms that regulate naturally occurring water flow and prevent catastrophic flooding of communities

clogged bridge


An example of this are crest gates that control water flow rates. Failure of a crest gates has significant environmental and safety impacts. An unplanned or unexpected gate release or overflow can risk lives, cause property damage, and environmental damage. It also creates the potential for dam and other hydro control systems that are interdependent on the gate to weaken or fail. A hydraulic lock like Bear-Loc® prevents sudden and excess flow that can be caused by hydraulic pressure loss.  This provides safe control of crest gates and other hydro control gates. Dam safety modifications with Bear-Loc® can help prevent flooding in communities and ensure the safety of internal dam equipment.

Crest Gates have externally mounted actuators that control the water flow that passes through them.  Severe or heavy flooding carries debris with it.  Debris in flood waters typically becomes entrapped on piers, pylons, supports or other structure.

hydrdaulic lines

The debris can build up and cause damage to crest gate actuators that are mounted externally and can have their exposed hydraulic fluid pressure system damaged.  A Bear-Loc® ensures that the actuator can remain locked and in position even if debris were to damage the hydraulic fluid lines, load holding valves, fittings or other fluid power parts that could compromise the safety dependency on the load holding valve. The spontaneous locking maintains the gate position and ensures that no negative flooding is introduced due to equipment failure or pressure loss that could cause gates to lower unexpectedly.  This safety measure adds a fail-safe measure that Load Holding Valves cannot provide.

Dam Crest gate hydraulic rod lock

Hurricane Katrina resulted in the hydro-control industry seeking advanced hydro-control measures that can save lives and prevent damage. Sufficient safety locking mechanisms in the hydraulics used for water flow control for gates in locks, levees and floodwall systems means that downstream cities can remain safe from the sudden surge of storm water causing catastrophic flooding.  Bear-Loc® can meet these needs.

2. Movable Bridges, Canal Locks and Lift Safety Locks

Proper hydraulic system locking is essential in movable bridges, canal locks and water related lifts.

lift bridge
hydro control

When these systems include hydraulic systems, safety and liability avoidance is found in integrating a fail safe locking device on Hydraulic Cylinder Rods or in stand-alone parallel locks.  A Hydraulic system failure could cause unexpected motion, leading to loss of life and property damage. Bear-Loc® can prevent a bridge's, Lift or Canal Lock from having unplanned movement and help protect property and save lives.

3. Hydro-Electric Generation Safety and Equipment Protection

Proper hydraulic locking is critical for safety in hydroelectric energy generation. Hydroelectric dams require hydraulic cylinders for power generation intake gates to admit and prevent the flow of water.

hydro electric dam

These hydraulic cylinders require locking mechanisms.  These locks secure gate position to protect power generation turbines from sudden water surges that can cause equipment damage and lost revenues due to generation downtime. Bear-Loc® can lock at fully open and closed positions and any place in between with the same locking power to assure protection of generation equipment from sudden flow surges.  Protect your investment with the best lock available.

Bear-Loc® Offers Reliable Safety Solutions

Bear Loc offers reliable safety solutions

Bear-Loc® incorporates the following features and capabilities for enhanced hydraulic system safety:

  • Positive locking action: Bear-Loc® positive locking action differentiates it from other hydraulic locks. Its positive locking action means it locks whenever the hydraulic pressure is lost and moves freely to any position when the hydraulic power is on. This instant locking is superior to other units that take longer to lock or must creep to a mechanical locking stop, sacrificing both precision and safety.
  • Few moving parts: Bear-Loc® is innovative in its design because the lock depends on fewer moving parts than other locks do. The benefit of fewer moving parts is longevity and fewer components to degrade over time.
  • Infinite adjusting capabilities: Bear-Loc® has infinite lock positioning capabilities to promote precision, control, efficiency and safety.
  • Fail-safe action: Bear-Loc® is a fail-safe solution — it locks automatically whenever power is removed.  It unlocks when power is reapplied.
  • Flexible solutions: Bear-Loc® provides flexible solutions to meet your unique hydraulic lock system needs because its design and size are customizable. We can design a Bear-Loc® with rod diameters from 1 inch to 25 inches, sleeve lengths as small as 1 inch or as long as 7 feet, and a lock capacity of up to 4 million pounds. The Bear-Loc® product is also available in an extensive range of configurations, including linear Bear-Loc® actuators and rotary Bear-Loc® units.
  • Compatible to smaller space envelopes: Bear-Loc® can be added to a hydraulic cylinder rod or mounted independently to serve as a stand-alone lock when space prevents direct rod mounting on a cylinder.  They can be mounted in parallel to an actuator cylinder or in series.  There are many options for your mounting requirements.

Contact York Precision Machining & Hydraulics for More Information About How Our Hydraulic Locks Can Help Your Design

Refurbishing Hydraulic Cylinders for Hydro control? Buy and integrate a new Bear-Loc®.

To see the benefits of a dependable hydraulic cylinder lock in your water control applications, partner with York Precision Machining & Hydraulics. Our Bear-Loc® is the most convenient, powerful, safe and reliable hydraulic locking unit on the market. It streamlines processes and prevents injuries, accidents, slowdowns and revenue losses.

Our team of capable and experienced engineers can design a custom Bear-Loc® to your specifications.  You can be sure you are getting a lock that meets your hydraulic system's unique needs. We partner with Civil Engineering Design Firms and Hydro-Electric Design firms to integrate Bear-Loc® into their designs. Ask your Civil or Architectural Designer for Bear-Loc® or contact us directly to see if we can help you integrate with the help of our engineering team.

Contact us today to purchase a hydro-control solution or to learn more.

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