Digital developments

14 April 2021

A number of hydropower projects are implementing digital solutions to improve maintenance and operations, as new deals are struck to expand the use of digital technology

Gilgel Gibe-II project in Ethiopia is to benefit from digital solutions from Voith

In January 2021, it was announced that Voith Hydro’s digital solutions are to be installed at the Gilgel Gibe II hydropower plant in Ethiopia, allowing owner Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) to carry out more efficient maintenance planning.

Voith’s new contract for digital solutions, including OnCare.Asset and OnCall.Video, as well as spare parts and training, follows on from comprehensive two-year service and maintenance contracts that were signed last year between Voith and EEP. The earlier contract includes optimization of the maintenance systems and support of the day-to-day operations and are being implemented exclusively by Ethiopian Voith experts on site.

The modernisation work at the plant is now being further enhanced with the new contract through the installation of state-of-the-art digital solutions. The intelligent applications being installed can be used for maintenance planning and execution as well as reporting and spare parts management. With OnCare.Asset, maintenance and operating costs can be significantly reduced while ensuring high system availability, says Voith. The digital service portfolio will include OnCall.Video, where Voith experts are available independent of time and place. In addition, Voith Hydro will offer spare parts and employee training to facilitate knowledge transfer and make the improvements sustainable.

OnCare.Asset offers efficient asset and workforce management to hydropower plant operators. The service and software solution facilitates the maintenance management of hydropower plants, from planning, servicing and documentation through cost control to spare parts management. OnCare.Asset securely stores all documentation and asset data, enables reliable planning and monitoring of key performance indicators, and allows the timely initiation of maintenance activities, explained Voith. With OnCare.Asset, customers achieve a high level of system availability while substantially reducing maintenance and operating costs.

The features of OnCare.Asset range from transparent work planning and scheduling, easy material management and ordering to a clear asset structure and mobile application. A clear graphical navigation facilitates day-to-day work with OnCare.Asset. Without knowing the asset number, employees can create notifications and easily find the right object. A predefined asset structure at the same time enables rapid implementation. Visualized work planning and scheduling functions enable users to make quick decisions during plant shutdowns and to maximize the utilization of planned shutdowns.

With OnCare.Asset, all available parts and materials are listed in a single application, providing all information at the first glance. New parts can be automatically reordered based on preset limits. The shopping basket function facilitates planning processes, while using the direct interface to ERP systems and to the Voith Webshop. The application offers real-time monitoring of the overall organizational performance as well as cost and downtime tracking. Apart from that, it enables users to analyze system weaknesses, using up to 20 predefined KPIs based on maintenance best practices.

All relevant maintenance information is available on mobile devices - anywhere, at any time. Thus, users can give instant feedback on executed work. Moreover, the voice to text functionality reduces time and effort for technicians. OnCare.Asset can also be run on an on-site server for customers without internet access or with only limited internet access. Additionally, a cloud-based system is available for customers with one or more locations. OnCare.Asset works as a standalone application or a user-friendly interface to existing systems. It can be connected to other solutions via Voith’s IIoT Platform

Switzerland’s first digital hydropower plant

Recently, he motors at one of the Axpo’s hydropower plants in Switzerland have been converted into smart, wirelessly monitored devices thanks to ABB Ability™ Smart Sensors and ABB Ability™ Condition Monitoring systems.

As Switzerland’s largest producer of renewable energy, Axpo says it is taking a modern approach to the way energy is created and delivered. It’s Hydro 4.0 initiative is a pilot project designed to create the country’s first digital hydropower plant. Located in Sarganserland, Axpo is in the midst of digitizing many of the plant’s traditional operations to increase efficiency and minimize downtime.

In partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, ABB worked with Axpo to install ABB Ability Smart Sensors on the motors to capture valuable maintenance and performance data from the plant’s rotating equipment. Through the ABB Ability Condition Monitoring digital solution, accurate, real-time information about the motors’ conditions is delivered. The sensors enable Axpo to deploy condition monitoring across the plant so engineers can discover anomalies, anticipate maintenance needs, and gain real-time insight into operations. Data points are continually monitored to provide the exact status of the different pieces of equipment, resulting in much more efficient maintenance without incurring higher risks of unpredicted failure. 

With increased efficiency in its plant, Axpo said it is better able to provide sustainable power for its customers.

© PVO-Vesivoima Oy Raasakka hydropower plant maintenance work

Long term partnership

Caverion recently announced it has signed an agreement with PVO-Vesivoima Oy for the continuation of operation and maintenance service at the Kokemäenjoki, Iijoki and Kemijoki hydropower plants in Finland. The agreement will ensure the continued cost efficiency of maintenance and high availability of PVO-Vesivoima's hydropower plants, following on with cooperation which began in 2011.

“It's great that our partnership with Caverion will continue. We can rest assured that our plants will continue to be maintained by responsible and skilled people. Hydropower production must be available exactly when reserve capacity is needed, so planned preventive maintenance and the timing of maintenance play a significant role in the operational reliability of the plants. In addition to conventional maintenance, it is important that we are able to develop our plants together and use new technology in the continuously changing operating environment," says Jani Pulli, Managing Director of PVO-Vesivoima Oy.

With planned preventive maintenance, work planning and digital solutions based on IoT and data analytics, Caverion offers the tools for systematic and planned preventive maintenance before any malfunctions of equipment. The use of data makes it possible to find opportunities for increasing the efficiency of operations and enhance the availability of the plants.

"Our cooperation with PVO-Vesivoima has always been open and very smooth. We actively seek solutions and develop operations together. The energy market is undergoing continuous change and, as a renewable source of energy, hydropower facilitates agile electricity production to regulate and supplement other forms of energy production. We are grateful for the trust placed in us and will work accordingly, promoting the efficiency of fossil-free energy production and occupational safety," says Elina Engman, Head of Caverion Industry division.

Caverion's hydropower and industrial services professionals manage PVO-Vesivoima's sites extensively, and when needed, utilise the expertise of all 200 hydropower employees.

Under control 

Recently it was announced that hydroelectric equipment manufacturer NuSTREEM was offering hydropower project owners the opportunity to demonstrate its advanced NuTECH Controller for free. The NuTECH Controller upgrades the performance of dual regulated turbines by using transformative technology proven to significantly increase efficiency, says the company. The NuTECH Controller relies on a new to industry control algorithm that optimizes performance, efficiency and reliability. The technology is easily installed and integrated with existing turbines and control systems. It also can be used in conjunction with NuSTREEM’s NuTURBINE design.

“Our innovation is exciting because it enhances the system by maximizing performance and improving water use efficiency, resulting in a better economic bottom line for projects” NuSTREEM General Manager, Juliann Blanford said. “Our NuTECH Controller puts intelligence behind decisions about how to move water through a turbine and is demonstrably superior to other methods, such as cam curve based optimization.”

NuSTREEM established the value of the controller through simulation and  empirical testing with both demonstrating significant improvements over existing methods. The results were released in the NuTECH Controller case study, available on the NuSTREEM website.

When operating with the NuTECH Controller, the turbine achieved efficiency gains throughout the operating range, with the most statistically significant improvements at low flow. A preexisting flow meter was used to validate the efficiency improvements, shown in the NTC Efficiency Graph.

“As it modernizes, the hydro industry is evaluating new approaches to recapture energy lost through inefficiency, squeezing out every last bit of available generation,” Blanford added. “Our NuTECH Controller boosts the performance of existing systems, while integrating seamlessly, as a result of our proven new approach. The NuTECH Controller provides efficiency improvements for all turbines — from the smallest to the largest.”

The NuTECH Controller is an optimization upgrade working with existing turbines as a control system add-on. It interfaces via multiple standard communication protocols with existing facility controls.

NuSTREEM provides expert support to site operators and engineers making the set-up and integration low risk. The Controller is designed to reduce installation effort by minimizing the extent of modifications to the facility PLC. NuSTREEM’s approach is to provide additional performance while also addressing and prioritizing the site owners’ concerns. For example, the NuTECH Controller can make continuous program adjustments at an interval directed by the site operator to minimize the risk of overuse of the actuation hardware.

NuSTREEM recently launched a partnership program for the NuTECH Controller. The company is offering hydropower project owners the opportunity to demonstrate its advanced Controller technology in exchange for data documenting efficiency improvements achieved. 

Comparison of TG efficiency iith NuTECH controller’s optimization vs. original cam curve at maximum site head

Distributor deal

In late January, Akselos and Worley announced a new distributor deal which will see the international energy, chemical, and resources firm market, license, and distribute Akselos’ predictive digital twin technology. The deal will apply to a range of companies worldwide, in sectors including energy, mining, environmental, and general industry.  

Thomas Leurent, Chief Executive Officer for Akselos said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with a company of Worley’s heritage and expertise. Worley has worked on digital twins with some of the biggest names in energy and is constantly looking for new ways to innovate. Worley evaluates hundreds of new technologies each year and recognised Akselos’ game changing potential compared to conventional engineering simulation. With some of the world’s most complex engineering projects in their portfolio, Worley is a perfect fit for us.” “We have been extremely impressed with Akselos’ simulation and structural & mechanical digital twin technology,” added Dr Andrew Campbell, Advanced Analysis Managing Consultant for Worley’s Advisian consulting business. “The software will provide improvements and optimise costs through the design, construction and operation of our customer’s assets. One area of strategic interest is optimising structures for offshore wind developments.”

Akselos’ structural digital twins enable accuracy and real-time use, helping to enhance safety, reduce maintenance and operating costs and support asset life extension. When integrated with sensors, Akselos’ structural simulation capabilities provide asset operators with a real-time overview of the condition of any large and complex asset, unlocking insights into future condition to improve inspection, maintenance, and repair.

Pushkar Rao, Global Head of Data Refinery for Worley Digital said, “Our new partnership with Akselos fits well within Worley’s digital offering. We are already using digital technology to help our customers optimise and capture value from their existing assets and new projects. We have extensive industry experience deploying cloud-based SaaS solutions and on-premises solutions, integrating Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and industrial control systems data at the edge.

“Our existing solutions combined with world’s fastest engineering simulation technology from Akselos will provide our customers with a powerful suite of SaaS products. We will be able to produce generative design models at unprecedented scale and speed. And provide IoT sensor integrated digital twins and simulation tools that are fast enough to recalibrate asset status in real time, all the time. This partnership is another step forward in the support we can offer our customers to help them accelerate their digital transformation journey.”


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