How to keep hydro-electric power under control: Managing and maintaining hydro-electric plants

  • Posted by admin on March 13, 2018

By tapping into gravity and the water cycle, humans have long taken advantage of one of Earth’s most efficient and naturally occurring energy sources, water. Today, technology is helping to better manage the process of hydro-electric power production. Here, Jürgen Resch, energy industry manager at COPA-DATA explains how intelligent technology can keep hydro-electric power under control.

Generating around 24% of the world’s total energy, hydro-electric is one of the most efficient energy generation methods. Britain has benefitted from this form of renewable power for over a century. However, according to a study by theWorld Atlas of Hydropower and Dams, the country has the potential to reap further rewards from investments in hydro-electric plants.

Government incentives, like the Renewables Obligation and the Feed-in Tariff have prompted Britain to commit to increasing its renewable energy generation to 15% by 2020. But, what are the advantages of hydro-electric power over other renewable sources?

Highs and lows of hydro-electric power

Hydro-electric power is widely regarded as one of the cleanest energy sources available, as it does not emit any carbon dioxide during the process. However, the initial investments of time, materials and resources can be extremely high.

The civil engineering required for plant construction can be incredibly complicated. Rerouting rivers, housing underground power units and taking careful consideration of the aquatic and environmental impact of construction are all potential roadblocks. Regardless of these complications, the rewards of investing in hydro-electric power are unrivalled.

Hydro-electric power can be as volatile as other renewable sources, but as it is available during the night, it is considered more consistent than solar. It also provides energy companies with a greater level of control than some other renewables.

Rather than relying on battery storage, hydro-electric plants can use pump storage to better control when energy is generated. This method of storage entails pumping water back into the dam when there is no need to generate electrical power, or if the prices for energy are particularly low at that time.

Several European countries and regions are already heavily reliant on hydro-electric generation, including Switzerland, Southern Germany, Austria and areas of France.

In comparison, Britain is inexperienced in hydro-electric power generation. So, what can Britain we learn from these countries that have already created successful hydro-electric power plants and how can new technology assist in the process?

Take control with monitoring software

As with any energy generating operation, control and monitoring software is an essential way to keep plants under control. However, due to the size of most hydro-electric operations, investing in intelligent control software is even more critical.

Control and monitoring software for hydro-electric plants can acquire an array of data — the systems can be used as a local Human Machine Interface (HMI) for the components of a power station, collecting data from numerous components,such as turbines, generators and converters. For individual power plants, the software can be used for project configuration and reporting or can be scaled upwards to manage a number of plants in a higher-level system. But, how does this data improve operations?

Juergen Resch

Consider maintenance as an example. Generally […]

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