ENEL OPEN INNOVABILITY® CHALLENGE | Faster and simpler installation of underground cables in Medium Voltage (MV) lines

26/07/2023 - Enel

Enel Grids is seeking innovative solutions to enhance the installation of cables underground of Medium Voltage lines, reducing the effort of the entire process.

Expires: 01 September 2023

Reward: Collaboration with Enel Grids

Meet the challenge!



Enel Grids is always looking for innovative solutions that can improve the growth and maintenance of its electrical infrastructure while reducing the environmental impact of installation activities.

Digging, trenching and tunneling are part of the traditional approach for installing electrical cables in the underground installation process. Do you have any new and innovative processes, tools, or applications or can improve how Enel currently installs Medium Voltage cables underground?

This is an electronic Request-for-Partners (eRFP) Challenge for International Institutions, NGOs, Social Enterprises, Startups & SMEs, University/Research centers, individuals; the Solver will need to submit a written proposal to be evaluated by the Seeker with the goal of establishing a collaborative partnership.



Medium Voltage cables are used across the world for a variety of uses. As their voltage range is between 6 kV and 33kV, they are used as infrastructure with applications ranging from utilities, commercial, transportation, and more. Enel uses Medium Voltage cables as a critical part of its generation and distribution activities across the world. However, the underground installation of Medium Voltage cables is very complex and time-consuming to date.

Engineers and ground teams spend a long time identifying underlying services, digging, laying the ducts, installing the cables, jointing, closing the excavation, and then reinstating the initial conditions of the pavement. Currently the activity of Medium Voltage line installation follows these general steps:

  • Trench excavation with the following dimension: depth 80-150 cm (depending on the rated voltage of the cable to be installed and by the requirements established by the fund manager), width 50 cm, length dependent on cable route (generally at least above 20m).
  • Laying of the protective tube that will contain the cable.
  • Covering the tube with a first layer of sand or inert material, with a warning strip on top.
  • Closing of the trench with required inert material and soil or asphalt on top.

These activities could have different conditions, depending on local and private conditions of the area in which is done, meaning each context may have different:

  • Depth of the excavated trench.
  • Material used for the covering layer.
  • Type of restoration to be implemented.

These underground activities are generally applied in several countries at the global level where Enel Grids usually operates. Given the great variety of contexts in which the underground cables are installed, the Challenge is proposing two main case-study sites where Enel Grids will apply the proposed solution and strategies from successful Solvers in this Challenge. These sites have been chosen as examples of different contexts of use. The principal context is the urban, from the center to the close suburban area, where the space limitation for cable installation is important. In the external suburban and rural areas there is more space for underground activities.

Innovations in the process will improve the experience of local residents, Enel installation staff, and maintenance crews in the future.


Enel Grids is seeking innovative solutions to enhance the installation of cables underground of Medium Voltage lines, reducing the effort of the entire process. The aim of the Challenge is to optimize, simplify, and speed up the cable installation process along the Medium Voltage (MV) line. This can be achieved by Solvers either through improving the current process or proposing a new process for the installation.

Currently, in Italy, when using the trenching system, it takes 20 days to lay 1km of medium-voltage cable. In the same context, when using the horizontal tunnelling process, it takes 6-10 days to lay 1km of cable. The complexity of the process is outlined above in the Scenario. Enel will evaluate solutions on the basis that they can achieve:

A faster step-by-step underground cable installation process – quicker than 20 days to lay 1km for tunnelling, or quicker than 10 days to lay 1km by horizontal tunnelling

Simpler steps compared to the current underground cable installation process.

These improvements can be achieved by reducing the impacts of the activities required of each step during the whole installation process:

  • Trenching
  • Laying the protection tube
  • Covering the tube
  • Closing the trench

For example, trenching is usually a construction method that involves digging a narrow trench in the ground for the installation, maintenance, or inspection of cables. Instead of the trench excavation described above, it should be for example considered that could be required the implementation of horizontal drilling that is trench-less, with higher or lower impacts compared to trenching, depending on the length of the cable. It is important to consider that coils used by Enel are 300m long, so they would need to dig each 300 meters to install the cable joint.


In this Challenge, Solvers are invited to improve the current process used by Enel or propose a new process. In order to show the effectiveness of your improvement of Enel’s current process or novel proposal, you must organize your solution to show its effectiveness across three use cases. You must propose a solution organized by use case, showing that your proposal can operate across a 1km cable, 3km cable, or 5km cable example.

Considering your solution should work across these use cases, it should also be separated from specific contexts. For instance, it should not depend on a very specific country context’s soil for covering the cable.

In general, the solution needs to satisfy the following must-have requirements:

  • Automatic or semi-automatic tool for cable installation activities, particularly with medium-voltage cables
  • Result in the least possible impact due to excavation and installation activities
  • Environmental – not causing unnecessary damage to the environment beyond the necessary cable installation
  • Social disruption to an area - in terms of time spent and sustained noise
  • Time of installation - less than 20 days per 1km if tunnelling, or less than 10 days when using the horizontal process
  • Trenchless technologies would be of interest
  • An innovative technology development phase at least with Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of > 5
  • Avoid interference to other cables and wiring present
  • Compliance with national regulation in Italy
  • Please indicate in your submission if your solution can adhere to local regulation (e.g. Norm CEI 11-17 - art. 2.311 in Italy), but also the availability to extend the required certification to other country contexts where Enel works.

Your solution can also satisfy these nice-to-have requirements:

  • Enel has an existing process for mapping underground utilities before conducting work. However, if you are proposing a new tool, having the functionality for alerting, pre-identification, and mapping of underground utilities, this would be of interest to Enel Grids.
  • Process or improvement that increases the ease or simplicity of maintenance of the cable once installed.

More info at openinnovability.com, Meet the challenge!


Tipologia: Challenge prize

Fonte: https://openinnovability.enel.com/challenges/call/2023/6/solutions-cables-underground-installation

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