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

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 speaking, machinery in a hydro-electric power plant will need to be revised and repaired every few years. However, without the necessary data to accurately predict when a machine might need maintenance, making investments in repair and maintenance is purely based on guess work.

Intelligent monitoring software, like COPA-DATA’s zenon, can collect the necessary data to help maintenance personnel make more informed decisions — reducing the likelihood of wasting cash on unnecessary maintenance.

By archiving data from the plant’s operation, the software can identify any problems with machinery or equipment in the plant. For those familiar with control software for energy and infrastructure, understanding the data can be an art form. Thankfully, modern software can collate this information into an easy-to-understand report — helping maintenance personnel identify exactly where the machine breakdown is likely to occur, if the plant is spread over several sites.

React to alerts in real-time

Collecting and archiving data can also be advantageous when reacting to problems at the plant. Due to their size, many hydro-electric power plants have unmanned control rooms, which can lead to slow reactions in the event of a problem. Rather than waiting for the problem to escalate, most modern control systems will also provide alerts to operators by means of SMS, e-mail or a call.

Using this method, operators can react and identify what has gone wrong. In these circumstances, it is often necessary to reconstruct the past events of the plant’s operation to work out exactly where in the process the error has occurred. Again, software can help.

COPA-DATA’s zenon, for example, has a dedicated Process Recorder module. This feature can pull operational data from the archive and replay the operation of the plant at any given time. This provides operators with a playback of what has gone wrong, enabling quicker identification of the problem and in turn, decreased downtime.

This method of data archiving also means that events are recorded and are available for subsequent analysis. This can enable plant managers to make more informed decisions and improve the plant’s efficiency even further.

Hydro-electric power may be one of the most efficient of renewable sources, but that does not mean its methods of generation cannot be improved. Using control and monitoring technology, energy companies in Central Europe are already benefitting from the carbon-free power of hydro-electric energy.

Britain has been using hydro-electric power for centuries, but with increasing pressure to meet its renewable energy targets,perhaps it is time that Britain takes its use of hydro-electric power to the next level.

The author of this blog is Jürgen Resch, energy industry manager at COPA-DATA

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow


Army’s new next generation squad weapon programme to launch ARC’s weapons intelligence platform

Posted on: August 12, 2022

Washington – Armaments Research Company, Inc, a technology and data company serving national security and public safety customers, announced their Internet-of-Things (IoT) full-stack technology will be introduced in the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) programme of record, in partnership with Sig Sauer. For the first time in 65 years, the U.S. Army’s initiative will replace

Read more

Connected logistics market to hit $47.6bn valuation by 2029 backed by MaaS for fleet management

Posted on: August 12, 2022

The global connected logistics market stands at a valuation of US$22.2 billion (€21.61 billion) in 2022 and is projected to reach $47.6 billion (€46.34 billion) by the end of 2029. Demand for connected logistics is estimated to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.5% over the forecast period (2022-2029).

Read more

9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, home automation using iot is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more

5 challenges still facing the Internet of Things

Posted on: June 3, 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly become a huge part of how people live, communicate and do business. All around the world, web-enabled devices are turning our world into a more switched-on place to live.

Read more

What is IoT?

Posted on: July 7, 2019

What is IoT Data as a new oil IoT connectivity What is IoT video So what’s IoT? The phrase ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is officially everywhere. It constantly shows up in my Google news feed, the weekend tech supplements are waxing lyrical about it and the volume of marketing emails I receive advertising ‘smart, connected

Read more
IoT Newsletter

Join the IoT Now online community for FREE, to receive: Exclusive offers for entry to all the IoT events that matter, round the world

Free access to a huge selection of the latest IoT analyst reports and industry whitepapers

The latest IoT news, as it breaks, to your inbox