HydroVision Preview: Overcoming Operations and Maintenance Challenges

Every aspect of hydro plant operations and maintenance contributes to its success. The Operations and Maintenance track at HydroVision International 2010 will focus on approaches to cutting costs, improving equipment longevity and performance, and increasing worker safety.

Hydropower is the single largest source of clean, renewable energy and is among the most flexible and reliable sources of energy available. This reliability is a testament to both the rugged design of the prime movers and the stewardship of the companies that operate and maintain the equipment and facilities.

The cost to operate and maintain a hydroelectric facility can be significant and is influenced by a variety of factors, including age of the plant, operational practices, the scope of scheduled maintenance outages, repairs needed as a result of forced outages, and the number of personnel required to adequately and safety operate the project. In addition, the level of complexity of the systems and equipment inside a hydroelectric powerhouse can significantly affect operation and maintenance costs.

Finally, market conditions, including the increasing value of ancillary services a hydro plant can provide, are testing the limits of operation for many hydro generating facilities. Generation equipment now is being operated routinely in regimes that traditionally would have been considered outside of design limits and appropriate only for transitional or possibly emergency conditions. These new requirements are increasing the level of operation and maintenance capabilities and costs for many plants.

Operations and maintenance issues surrounding hydroelectric facilities will be just one of the many subjects under discussion at HydroVision International 2010, July 27-30, 2010, in Charlotte, N.C.

Today’s biggest O&M issues

Operations and maintenance personnel at hydroelectric facilities face significant issues. Among these is the fact that these facilities are aging at the same time that technology is changing substantially. In addition, at many older hydro plants, equipment may be upgraded a piece at a time. Over the years, this means a facility can contain a mix of old and new equipment, which may have different operational and/or maintenance requirements.

In addition, the hydroelectric plant workforce is aging, which causes a two-fold problem. First, these older plants need significant upgrade work at the same time as many experienced personnel are planning their retirements. Second, retiring employees are taking with them valuable expertise, with little time available to transfer this experiential learning to the next generation of plant workers.

Even if time and personnel could be made available for this knowledge transfer, in today’s operating environment it is not enough to simply have the old guys teach the young guys how they’ve always done it, says Thomas Brittain, P.E., senior mechanical engineer, hydropower and hydraulic structures, with Black & Veatch Corp. New hydro plant operators are entering a world of much more rigorous regulatory oversight. The challenges of meeting North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), oil spill and monitoring, and other requirements affect plant operating procedures and planning. Proper, thorough training of younger men and women to enter this new operating environment is key to any utility’s success in meeting regulatory requirements.

Challenges for the future

Hydroelectric facility owners and operators face significant challenges for the future with regard to plant operations and maintenance. Some of these challenges, which may be ongoing issues, include:

— Properly maintaining hydro plant equipment, much of which is aging and could even be obsolete;

— Troubleshooting problems with new equipment being installed to overcome problems with age or obsolesence;

— Effectively managing an outage to make the best use of plant personnel and minimize revenue lost;

— Ensuring worker safety, both of experienced plant personnel and new recruits; and

— Dealing with changing operational objectives due to evolving market conditions.

Covering it all at HydroVision

The seven sessions in the Operations and Maintenance track at the HydroVision International event provide a wealth of information to help plant personnel deal with a variety of issues.

The first session is moderated by Dr. Greg C. Stone, vice president of business development with Iris Power LP and covers Generator Life Cycle – Inspection, Monitoring, Repairs, and Replacement. Attendees will hear the latest news from experienced project owners and operators on generator monitoring and inspection, as well as the philosophy on when and what to do to keep generators operating.

Turbine Life Cycle – Inspection, Repair, and Upgrade is the second session. Robert A. Rittase, P.E., senior consultant and manager of the York office for HDR|DTA, leads a team of experienced turbine professionals in a discussion of the pros and cons of various inspection, repair, and upgrade scenarios. The discussion will have a specific focus on issues such as bearings, alignment, and in-place machining.

Conference delegates who attend the third session in this track can stay up to date with an informative primer on governors and excitation systems. Panelists in this interactive session will discuss maintaining older equipment, as well as new equipment troubleshooting, obsolescence, and spare parts management. Alan Fox, regional manager with American Governor Co., is the moderator of this session, titled Best Practices: Black Boxes – Governors and Excitation Systems.

The fourth session in the operations and maintenance track is on Improving Outage Management. Warren Witt, manager of hydro operations with Ameren UE, and a panel of experts provide practical tips for effectively managing an outage. Panelists will discuss developing a mentality of continuous improvement through pre-outage planning, safety, and labor operations. Among other things, attendees of this session will learn how to develop job plans, work packages, and contracting and outsourcing agreements.

During the Balance of Plant – Items That Can Drive You to Drink! session, Brittain and several expert panelists will discuss a wide variety of equipment that is critical to plant operation. Items that create a lot of stress for management personnel, supervisors, and engineers include new requirements for sump operations, more concern with crane operator and inspector training, and proper training of all the new people in the plants.

Hot topics that might arise during this session include better ways to alarm when oil gets in the wrong places, video fish counting systems that allow more accurate counts for less money, better lubricants for gearboxes and compressors, and use of asset management programs to ensure the right work is done on the right equipment at the right time. In addition, attendees can bring their problems or challenges to this session to get ideas and insight.

Personnel safety is an ongoing issue that deserves attention. In Personnel Safety – Raising the Bar, moderator Gregory D. Lewis, P.E., technical manager, hydro generation, Duke Energy Corp., leads a panel of experienced operations and maintenance practitioners in a discussion of a variety of safety topics, including certification programs and diver safety.

The final session in the operations and maintenance track, Changing Expectations for Operations, features a panel of experts discussing changing operational objectives due to market conditions in ancillary services and other requirements, such as environmental compliance. Conference delegates will learn how this trickles down to operations and maintenance requirements and affects operating procedures and planning. Marshall J. Kaiser, principal consultant with Kleinschmidt Associates, moderates this session.

Highlighting Operations and Maintenance at HydroVision International 2010


Gerry Russell, P.E., is manager, marketing and chief hydraulic engineer with American Hydro Corporation. He is the track chair for the Operations & Maintenance track at HydroVision International, to be held July 27-30, 2010, in Charlotte, N.C.


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HydroVision Preview: Water Resources: It Always Comes Down to the Science

Water Resources is one of the ten tracks being offered at HydroVision International 2010. Experts will discuss how the hydroelectric industry has worked for the past 25 years to show the environmental soundness of hydropower and to improve the way hydro facilities are designed and operated.

In the early years of hydropower generation, the environmental soundness of this resource rarely was questioned. In fact, early opposition to hydroelectric development primarily stemmed from land use and land ownership issues. At that time, little was done in the way of scientific studies designed to understand the effects of hydropower development and operation on rivers and their ecosystems.

However, for the past 25 years, owners of hydroelectric facilities throughout the world have been performing scientific studies to assess the environmental effects and to find better ways to design and operate projects. During the Water Resources track at HydroVision International 2010, to be held July 27-30 in Charlotte, N.C., subject matter experts will address seven areas of cutting-edge science that provide attendees with a greater understanding of how hydropower projects fit into the environment.

Science-based panels

The first two sessions in the Water Resources track feature science-based panels that biologists, hydro project owners and developers, and others interested in the environmental aspects of hydro will not want to miss.

Tim Brush with Normandeau Associates Inc. will lead a panel of experts providing an overview of the latest Hot Topics in Fisheries Management. Conference delegates attending this session will hear panelists discuss some of the most current studies and work project owners are doing to address fisheries effects. Experts lending their point of view to this discussion include John Esler with Portland General Electric, Amanda Hill with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Paul Jacobson with EPRI, and Jennifer Hill with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Next, Hugh Barwick with Duke Energy Carolinas LLC will lead a session entitled: Achieving Ecosystems Sustainability: To Manage or Restore? The diverse panel of experts aiding this discussion includes William Richkus with Versar Inc., Greg Jennings with North Carolina State University, and Bruce Meaker with Snohomish County Public Utility District. These panelists will help conference delegates explore the contradictions of dynamic natural systems versus the often steady state of societal expectations. Are hydro project owners allowing culture to drive these decisions, or should natural science be the primary driver? This session will help delegates mesh public policy desires with the realities of the natural world.

Three sessions on Thursday

On Thursday, July 29, the Water Resources track will feature three sessions, starting with Are World Travelers Visiting Your Reservoirs? What to Do about Aquatic Invasive Species. Michele M. Drake, compliance coordinator for Avista Corporation, will lead a panel of biologists – including Russell Stein with the California Department of Water Resources, Robert Plotnikoff with Tetra Tech Inc., and Ken Manuel with Duke Energy – in a discussion about the proliferation of aquatic invasive species throughout the world. Panelists will explore the role of hydropower in this issue and will provide case studies to illustrate successful methods for controlling these unwelcome visitors.

In the second session on Thursday, environmental scientist David Olson with HDR Inc. will lead a panel of experts in a discussion about Using Adaptive Management during Changing Conditions. The panelists will focus on how hydropower can serve as a tool to balance economic viability with all of the stewardship demands on a project. James W. Thornton with Dominion, Diane Barr with PacifiCorp, and Lars Oyvind Odegard with Sweco Norge AS will join Olson in exploring how hydropower can help to provide water supply storage, timed releases, water quality protection, downstream flood protection, and peaking power, as well as the evolving power grid support needed from hydropower. Can hydropower serve all of these needs and still maintain the necessary flexibility to remain financially viable? This panel likely will engage in a lively discourse that involves conference delegates.

Hot Topics in Fisheries Management is one of the sessions in the Water Resources Track at the HydroVision International 2010 conference.

Thursday’s water resources sessions will conclude with Avoiding Analysis Paralysis – Effectively Using Science in Decision-Making. Lisa Wieland Larson with Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Inc. will lead panelists Brent Moore with TRC, Glenn F. Cada with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Catherine E. Shively with Northeast Utilities Service Company, and Debbie C. Young with Tacoma Power as conference delegates attempt to understand when they have enough data to move forward. Do studies simply lead to more studies, or are there points where enough data exists to make a decision? What is the effect of long-term monitoring studies?

Closing the track

As HydroVision International wraps up three days of sessions on Friday, the closing panel discussions are sure to be of interest to all scientists in attendance.

For the Water Resources track, the morning begins with John Clerici with CirclePoint leading a group of panelists in a session entitled Basin-Wide Resource Management: Who Is at the Table and Where Does Hydropower Sit? Panelists for this session include Joe Heil with Ontario Power Generation Inc., Michael R. Smith with Trout Unlimited, and Victoria Taylor with the Catawba-Wateree Relicensing Coalition. This session will provide conference delegates with the opportunity to explore case studies from throughout the world regarding basin-wide management plans and the role of hydropower in those plans. Is hydropower the driver, or does it merely rate a seat at the table?

The track concludes with one of the most current scientific topics associated with hydropower: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Reservoirs – Filling the Knowledge Gap. Catrin van Donkelaar with Eugene Water and Electric Board will lead a group of experts in updating conference delegates on the most recent body of knowledge regarding the real effects of reservoirs on greenhouse gas emissions. The panelists – Joel Avruch Goldenfum with the International Hydropower Association, Brennan T. Smith with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Alain Tremblay with Hydro-Quebec – will discuss predictive models and real-time measurements. Is more data necessary to claim reservoirs are not polluting the air? Conference delegates will leave this session armed with current science on this topic.

The Water Resources track is a can’t-miss part of the HydroVision International conference!  

Mike Murphy is principal with TRC Companies Inc. He is the track chair for the Water Resources track at HydroVision International 2010, to be held July 27-30 in Charlotte, N.C.


Water Resources Focus at HydroVision International 2010 

  • Hot Topics in Fisheries Management; Achieving Ecosystems Sustainability: To Manage or Restore;
  • Are World Travelers Visiting Your Reservoirs? What to Do about Aquatic Invasive Species;
  • Using Adaptive Management during Changing Conditions;
  • Avoiding Analysis Paralysis – Effectively Using Science in Decision-Making;
  • Basin-Wide Resource Management: Who Is at the Table and Where Does Hydropower Sit?; and
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Reservoirs – Filling the Knowledge Gap.

To learn more about HydroVision International, go to www.hydroevent.com. 

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