Refurbishing Hydropower to Increase Project Life and Boost Capacity

The longevity of hydropower installation infrastructure makes them typically great candidates for refurbishment and repowering. By maximising energy yields and functionality from an existing hydro resource, environmental impacts are minimised while assets can be given a whole new lease of life.

As interest in hydropower picks up, there is increasing evidence that the trend for repowering and refurbishing hydro assets is picking pace along with it. Certainly, it’s no surprise that the big original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been extremely active in this area.

Andritz, for example, has announced a series of refurbishement schemes in Europe over the past months. Among these projects is modernization of Innertkirchen 1 and Handeck 2 stations in Switzerland, first built over 60 years ago

Owners Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG (KWO) placed an order with the group to supply two Pelton turbines and one synchronous generator as part of the project. Commissioning is scheduled for 2016 and the modernisation is expected to result in an additional 70 GWh being produced by the project annually.

The order comprises supply, installation, and commissioning of two vertical, six-jet Peltons with capacity of 150 MW and 90 MW, respectively, and of a 165 MVA vertical synchronous generator. According to statement, the upgrade will boost the overall output of the two plants by 280 MW to reach 670 MW.

By building a second head race, the flow rate of the water and thus the friction losses in the pressure pipes will be reduced. As a result, more energy can be generated from the water volume used in both power stations. Andritz is also behind the modernisation of the Ybbs-Persenbeug project on the Danube in Austria.

Owned by Verbund, the 236-MW run-of-river Ybbs-Persenbeug plant was first commissioned in 1959

Due to new technologies in hydraulic and electrical engineering, improved materials and manufacturing techniques, and digital control systems, the plant will generate an additional 60 GWh

With its “Ybbs 2020” project, Verbund is continuing in a collaboration with Andritz Hydro to revitalize the power stations on the River Danube. Aschach power station was already modernized between 2006 and 2010.

Other major players are also active refurbishing and modernising hydro projects in the European sector. For instance, Voith has received an order for the refurbishment of a hydropower plant on the Rhine under the terms of which it modernize several turbines in the Rheinkraftwerk Albbruck-Dogern plant on the German-Swiss border. Supplying three vertical Kaplan runners for the project, which has been operating for 80 years, in total, the order is worth approximately €25 million. Recently the project’s license was extended — until 2072.

On the southern Rhine alone, not far from Albbruck-Dogern, Voith recently modernized and overhauled the hydro-power plants Rheinfelden, Erneg and Bad Säckingen while in Norway, the company received orders for the modernization of six turbines in four hydropower stations back in March.

The deal with Statkraft — covering four different Norwegian hydropower stations — is worth some €10 million and covers the modernization of turbines in the power stations Oevre Roessaaga, Nedre Roessaaga, Baatsvatn and Vessingfoss. The plants, which were installed between 1955 and 1975, will receive six new Francis turbines and in future generate up to 10 percent more output.

Beyond Europe, the beginning of this year also saw Voith secure several major orders for the modernization of hydro power stations in Brazil as well as in China. The combined contract value of the projects is about €185 million.

For three major projects in Brazil, Voith is modernizing the power plants Salto Santiago and Passo Fundo on behalf of Tractebel Energia S.A., as well as Chavantes hydro power station for the operator Duke Energy.

In Sanmenxia in China, Voith is modernizing two 50-MW turbines as well as other components and automation elements.

Dr. Roland Münch, CEO and President of Voith Hydro explained in a statement: “Our success with these orders shows that the trend towards modernization in major hydro power markets is further continuing. As an additional important mainstay, the growing modernization business complements the existing activities regarding new constructions.”

The statement adds that China and Brazil are among the largest hydro power markets in the world: “Apart from working on new infrastructure projects, both countries are increasingly focusing on the modernization and refurbishment of hydro power plants that have been running for decades now. This is development that has already started to take place in North America and Europe.”

In Russia, one of the key markets for refurbishment and modernisation Voith is one of a number of major manufacturers to secure deals and forge alliances with RusHydro.

March this year saw the two companies sign a contract establishing the 50:50 joint venture VolgaHydro LLC.

Besides the possibility of building new hydropower plants, the joint venture focuses on extensive modernization of old hydropower stations. For instance, Voith and RusHydro have already started to renew the plants Miatlinskaya and Saratovskaya. Voith also modernized the technical equipment of the hydropower plant Uglich for RusHydro.

Similarly, RusHydro and Alstom have expanded cooperation in their hydropower equipment joint venture AlstomRusHydroEnergy, in particular related to reconstruction and modernization of Kubanski Cascade projects. This project covers complex modernization of eight hydro-power plants and one pumped-storage plant, comprising the cascade. Alstom will manufacture equipment and will supervise installation and pre-launch testing. The key component is introduction of automated centralized control of the cascade from the town of Nevinnomyssk.

AlstomRusHydroEnergy, a 50:50 plus one share joint venture, was established in 2011. It will manufacture main power generation equipment for small (up to 25 MW), mid-sized hydropower plants (up to 100 MW) and pump storage plants (up to 150 MW), as well as auxiliary equipment.

At the same time sales to RusHydro’s hydropower plants undergoing rehabilitation and modernization will be a priority business of the enterprise, a statement says. 

A June agreement extends the scope of the joint venture to services including the inspection of power plants, supply of spare parts and components, retooling and the repair and upgrade of equipment.

Joint ventures aside, RusHydro has also secured contracts to refurbish and modernise hydro plants, for example recently receiving the first payment under an agreement with Nigeria’s Mainstream Energy Solutions Ltd. In September 2012, a consortium of Mainstream and RusHydro won a tender to operate two hydropower plants in Nigeria.

Both power plants — Kainji and Jebba — are located on the Niger river, and installed capacities of 760 MW and 578 MW, respectively, though current available capacity is substantially below the nameplate. The concession conditions provide for modernization, with RusHydro responsible for technical management and management.

Mainstream has committed to spend US$452 million for modernization of the plants during the first five years of the concession.

Meanwhile, RusHydro has also supported funding for refurbishment of hydro projects. In May the company backed a $25 million loan from the Asian Development Bank for modernization of Armenia’s Sevan-Hrazdan hydropower plants, built between the 1930s and 1960s. Located on river Hrazdan between Lake Sevan and the city of Yerevan, it currently supplies about 10 percent of the country’s electricity.

The seven plant cascade with a total capacity of 561 MW now requires refurbishment to extend its working life and reduce the risk of major failures, RusHydro says. Aside from the rehabilitation of the hydropower plants, there are also plans to modernize the plants’ diversion channels.

This latest development followed a similar deal with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) back in January, also related to a loan for the modernization of the Sevan-Hrazdan cascade. The $25 million EBRD loan matures in 2029.

Apart from significantly extending the operational lifetime of hydropower facilities, modernisation and refurbishment can increase power output and can also ensure long-term reductions in operating costs, and as such should be the first order of business for the hydropower industry. 

Read more hydropower news here.

Lead image: Hydropower via Shutterstock

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David Appleyard is a contributing editor. Formerly Editor in Chief of Renewable Energy World and sister renewable energy magazines Wind Technology, Large Scale Solar and HRW - Hydro Review Worldwide, now a freelance journalist and photographer contributing to a wide range of on-line and print publications. David has some 20 years' experience of writing about the renewable energy sector and is based in Europe.

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