HydroVision Preview: Asset Management: A Delicate Balance with Many Masters

Hydropower asset managers face numerous, often competing, challenges as they lead their companies’ efforts to keep their plants reliable, modernized, and cost-effective. The Asset Management Track at HydroVision International 2010 will focus on key issues for asset managers.

One of the biggest opportunities for hydropower, and an issue with the most challenges, is hydropower’s increasing role as support to intermittent resources, such as wind and solar.

The marriage of hydro to these new sources presents the opportunity to build coalitions among renewable energy providers that lead to a firm energy resource. This strengthens all producers’ positions and provides a united renewable energy front. The integration of these resources presents a unique and crucial engineering challenge. The question at hand is whether or not hydro utilities and grid operators are up to the test.

From an asset manager’s point of view, this integration brings with it some interesting paradoxes. The first is that there are more frequent starts and stops, which can lead to more wear and tear on units. A second is that the down times for refurbishment may need to be revised to be in harmony with the other renewable producer’s generation schedule. A third is that unit optimization can become more difficult to achieve. Finally, cost recovery for providing ancillary services to intermittent resources is complicated. Hear about how asset managers are approaching this when you attend the first session in the Asset Management Track at HydroVision International 2010, July 27-30 in Charlotte, N.C.

Show me the money

With the always-present push to keep production costs and rates low, building strong business cases is key to successfully funding refurbishment and modernization projects. Utilities use a variety of methods and tools to assess the condition of their equipment and the need for capital expenditures. There are several promising methods emerging to effectively prioritize these expenditures. One joint approach is the HydroAMP program developed, and now being used, by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hydro-Quebec, and Bonneville Power Administration. This multi-agency process is founded in ground-level assessments of machine condition and an assessment of the criticality of the equipment. Hear about the tools being used by these and other utilities during the second session of the Asset Management Track.

You want it when?

Refurbishment and modernization projects tend to be complicated, with challenging schedules, material and supply concerns, and funding limitations. Imagine adding a computer to your 1960 Corvette’s engine, and you get the picture. With the hydro fleet aging rapidly, and new materials and equipment evolving exponentially, there is tremendous opportunity, as well as great risk, in asset management. Expert project management is critical to the success of these projects. It takes a savvy mix of project planning, tracking and adjusting, as well as creative procurement strategies, to bring a project in on time and within budget. With market forces exerting ever-greater influence on outages for valuable hydro resources, optimizing outage schedules and minimizing outage time is of utmost importance. Hydro utilities are using a variety of project management tools to achieve this. You’ll hear about these during the third session of the Asset Management Track.

Old dogs and new tricks

As anyone who has used a computer knows, technology changes at warp-speed. Hydro utilities are faced with replacing decades-old legacy equipment such as SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems and mechanical governors. Superimposed on this is the new concern about these systems’ security from external tampering. Although this new technology can add great capability and flexibility to a system, the life cycles of electronic equipment are trending toward being shorter. Hydro asset managers are using a variety of approaches to respond to this factor. Modular control systems and off-the-shelf software have become attractive options to legacy systems. Optimization software helps assure using the right unit for the right production. Digital governors are helping machines respond to shortened response time requirements. You’ll learn about these and other issues at the fourth session of the Asset Management Track.

It’s all about people

As hydropower professionals get older and retire, with them goes their knowledge and experience. Younger people coming into the business — while bright, well-educated, and tech-savvy — have had little or no experience with hydropower. The cost constraints and hiring freezes over the past 20 years had a chilling effect on continuing the human resource supply chain, thus creating an expertise gap for our industry. Retaining experienced workers for leadership roles while recruiting, hiring, and training new talent is a serious concern for hydro asset managers. Capturing the institutional knowledge of those retiring is a problem for many companies.

Hydro utilities are using innovative hiring techniques, flexible scheduling, internships, rotation programs, and further education as incentives for new employees. Experienced employees are being offered performance-based pay, leadership skill-building, and professional development. Retiring employees are being offered mentorships and incentives for knowledge transfer. The fifth session of the Asset Management Track will present a broad array of companies discussing how they are approaching this all-important challenge.

With the hydro fleet aging rapidly, and new materials and equipment evolving exponentially, there is tremendous opportunity, as well as great risk, in asset management.

Reliability is king

With the passage of legislation and revision of the reliability organizations and their standards, teeth have been added to the reliability council’s regulations. The reliability regulations are pushing asset managers toward reliability-centered asset management. Increasing emphasis is being placed on behind-the-scenes activities critical to reliability, such as battery and relay testing. Compliance audits are generating multiple correction actions and mitigation plans. Juggling these requirements with the on-going asset management of a utility is daunting. You’ll hear from experts in the trenches in the sixth Asset Management Track session.

Keys to being a successful asset manager

A successful asset manager is a rare bird. Flexibility, nimbleness, creativity, curiosity, and fearlessness come to mind as success factors for today’s hydro asset managers. In a first-ever panel, the final session of the Asset Management Track will bring together the best of the bunch. These successful asset managers will be sharing not only information from their session but their own strategies to assure reliable, cost-effective management of hydropower assets. These managers will share their tips for success and the pitfalls to avoid. This session is an exciting finale of managerial and technical expertise offered by some of the best.

A good example of successful asset management is the recent upgrade at the Vernon powerhouse on the Connecticut River. The plant now has a capacity of 32.4 MW and is poised to continue generating electricity for decades to come.

 A Focus on Asset Management at HydroVision International 2010

Michael P. Roll P.E. is Deputy Director of the Hydroelectric Design Center, Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Track Co-Chair for the Asset Management Track at HydroVision International 2010. 

More Hydro Review Current Issue Articles
More Hydro Review Archives Issue Articles

Previous articleIndia state seeks flow forecasting for Krisha, Bhima rivers
Next articleMiter gate work needed at Melvin Price Locks and Dam in U.S.

No posts to display