From the Board Room: Wolfgang Semper, Hydro Equipment Association

In this interview, Wolfgang Semper discusses the current status of hydropower in terms of technology, as well as innovative approaches to improve hydropower development worldwide.

By David Appleyard

Wolfgang Semper is president of the Hydro Equipment Association and a member of the executive board for equipment manufacturer Andritz. HEA in Brussels, Belgium, is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2001 by Alstom Hydro, Andritz Hydro and Voith Hydro that represents electromechanical equipment suppliers for hydropower globally. Its vision is to position hydropower as the first, largest and most efficient renewable energy source, which also fulfills such needs as CO2 savings, energy storage, flood control, irrigation, water supply, and sustainable economic and social development. HEA has four full (IMPSA joined after HEA was formed) and eight associated members.

Wolfgang Semper
Wolfgang Semper

HRW-Hydro Review World-wide sat down with Semper recently to get his views on modern hydropower and the challenges and innovations surrounding hydropower globally. Following is a transcript of that interview:

Q: What does the term “modern hydropower” mean to you?

Semper: From the point of view of HEA, as an assembly of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of hydropower equipment, modern hydropower means permanent development of state-of-the-art technology and flexible adaptation to the needs of the future. That concerns all parts of a power plant, such as turbines, generators or automation equipment, as well as overall power plant concepts. New targets of modern know-how not only concentrate on higher outputs and higher efficiencies but also on providing ancillary services such as broader operating bands, frequent load changes, grid stabilization and back-up of volatile energy sources like wind or solar.

Q: What is the main challenge for hydropower development around the world?

Semper: Development of sustainable hydropower is the main task for the future. As manufacturers, we are eager to contribute with all our possibilities. That means on one hand to provide possible technological solutions, such as for instance fish-friendly turbines, oil-free applications or optimization of design for sustainable aspects. On the other hand, it means supporting the hydropower community to establish relevant criteria for sustainable hydropower on a global basis. That was the reason that we as HEA have become a sustainability partner to the International Hydropower Association and support the role of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol as a measuring tool for sustainable hydropower.

Q: What are the innovative approaches that you would put forward and use as an example of hydropower as a modern, evolving technology?

Semper: Technologically innovative approaches are covering a wide range, starting from hydropower as a core element of a modern future renewable grid structure in developed countries up to an achievable and cost-effective electricity source in developing countries. Examples for research and development activities are optimization of designs for high efficiencies in part load operations, as well as quick and frequent start-stop sequences for pumped storage and run-of-the-river applications, but also new products for very low head power plants, small and mini hydro equipment, or harvesting of ocean energy with wave, tidal or stream equipment.

Q: What is the most striking change you have witnessed for hydropower recently?

Semper: For many years, or even decades, there have been a lot of discussions and discrepancies between large (seen to be bad) and small (seen to be good) hydropower. That has also driven a lot of conflicts between the opinions of people in developed and developing countries. Now the discussion is on the way to change to the differentiation between sustainable and non-sustainable hydropower, and here we can find the common ground for all countries.

Q: What single change would you like to see that could enhance to the role of modern hydropower?

Semper: Beside the production of electricity out of a renewable and environmental friendly source, hydropower facilities provide a long list of ancillary services to the community, such as water storage, irrigation, flood control, navigation, infrastructure, a backbone for volatile renewables, etc. Honoring and rewarding of all those services would position hydroelectric power even more in a key function for a modern future.

Q: Any final comments/thoughts on the future of hydropower?

Semper: As already mentioned, there will be, in my opinion, no renewable future without hydropower. The big challenge is to develop it further in a sustainable way. We as a manufacturer and supplier are ready and prepared to contribute with all our possibilities and efforts.

David Appleyard is chief editor of HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide.

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