Event Information: Where Hydro Meets Power

Attendees of the HydroVision International event have access to a wealth of educational sessions covering the gamut of concerns for hydroelectric industry personnel. An unpara-lleled 73 such sessions truly offer something for everyone.

By Elizabeth Ingram

Hydropower professionals from throughout the world are meeting in Louisville, Ky., the week of July 16 for HydroVision International 2012, the year’s largest gathering of hydropower professionals.

During the four-day event, the Kentucky International Convention Center features a busy exhibition floor populated by the world’s biggest players in the hydropower industry and technical presentations and panel discussions by leading experts. More than 3,000 people are expected to attend HydroVision International, which offers a wealth of networking opportunities with leading professionals and key decision-makers.

A wide range of topics and issues – from emergency action planning to development projects at existing water infrastructure – are being discussed by high-ranking regulators, major developers and the biggest hydropower producers.

The keynote session on Tuesday, July 19, features opening remarks by three hydroelectric industry association representatives and presentations by four speakers representing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, developer American Municipal Power, Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities Energy, and equipment manufacturer Alstom.

Altogether, the conference features about 400 speakers in 73 sessions, including 21 technical paper sessions.

In addition, more than 300 companies and organizations are showcasing their products and services on the exhibition floor. The exhibition opens with a Tuesday evening reception.

HydroVision International features sessions in eight tracks: Asset Management, Civil Works & Dam Safety, New Development, Ocean/Tidal/Stream Power, Operations & Maintenance, Policies & Regulations, Water Resources, and Technical Papers and Poster Galleries.

What follows is a description of some of the highlights in the seven panel presentation tracks.

Asset Management

Improving grid reliability, increasing wind and solar generation, and reducing carbon emissions present new asset management opportunities and challenges for hydro as part of a diverse portfolio of generating resources, says Brent Mahan, director of the Hydroelectric Design Center for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and track chair for the Asset Management track. Best practices for understanding the relationships and applying new solutions for improved performance are emerging and relevant to a wide range of utilities, regulators and system operators across most geographical reasons.

For this reason, Mahan says one can’t-miss session in this track is Synergies and Challenges of Integrating Hydro and Other Renewables in Your Portfolio. In this session, conference delegates will learn how other utilities are capitalizing on the synergy of integrating hydro with other renewables in their asset management strategies, as well as how grid stability is affecting those strategies and whether wear and tear is the real issue. In addition, industry leaders discuss how maximizing pumped storage as a transmission resource leads to collaboration and better decision.

Another important asset management topic being addressed is Building Bridges – Meshing Your Asset Management and Operations and Maintenance Decision-Making. As the field of asset management matures, industry leaders are applying new ways to better integrate capital investment and operations and maintenance management. This emerging area of improved asset life-cycle management enhances performance and reliability and helps minimize costs.

Attendees will hear innovative utility managers explain how they are blending their asset management and O&M decision-making processes. Panelists discuss how they are working to develop seamless approaches to improve information sharing and decisions to benefit both communities.

Civil Works & Dam Safety

For many dams, the consequences of a failure can be significant. That is just one reason why it is so important to have a focused dam safety monitoring program in place, says Wayne D. Edwards, P.E., principal of W.D. Edwards Consulting Inc. and track chair for the civil works and dam safety track. In New Trends in Dam Safety Surveillance and Monitoring, dam owners “in the trenches” and knowledgeable consultants discuss the components of a good monitoring and surveillance program and how to make decisions about what to do with the data once it is collected. Attendees also learn about new technologies available and how they are being applied.

Another important consideration for dam owners is: When does it make sense to consider a dam removal? During this session, experts provide the information needed to realistically evaluate options for solving problems with dams, such as fish passage, as well as the consequences and benefits of dam removal. They discuss how and when to bring stakeholders into the discussion and how to determine the real costs of removing a dam.

New Development

Hydro project development activity is going strong worldwide, and this track at HydroVision International offers several great sessions. In fact, track chair Norman Bishop, P.E., senior vice president with Knight Piesold and Co., says this is going to be one of the most interesting New Development tracks because of the excellent information and ideas that are being shared from around the world.

One key session is How Small Hydro is Shaping the World’s Energy Future. Small hydro development is getting a lot of attention from regulators and investors. In this session, panelists explain how developers are approaching small hydro projects to ensure successful outcomes for the owners and the project beneficiaries.

Bishop says two other equally valuable and informative sessions are:

– Implementation: Lessons in Globalized Project Delivery, which covers how global sourcing and project delivery is becoming the preferred mechanism for owners to develop and construct new hydro projects; and

– Adding Optimized Hydro Projects at Existing Facilities, during which experts will explain how by adding waterpower at existing dams or making equipment changes, owners can obtain energy that would have been otherwise wasted or produced at lower equipment efficiency.

Ocean/Tidal/Stream Power

One session in this track that is truly international in nature is Research and Development: Moving Forward. The moderator hails from the United Kingdom, and two panelists represent Scotland and Korea. The panelists are leaders in the field, and we are lucky to have them at HydroVision International, says track co-chair Tim Mundon, a senior engineer with Kleinschmidt Associates. This panel covers what universities, federal bodies, and U.S. states are doing to accelerate the deployment of new ocean/tidal/stream power technologies. This panel is sure to generate some excellent debate and great ideas for how ocean/tidal/stream power research is and should be progressing.

A second interesting session is The Tradeoffs Between Cost, Survivability and Efficiency. This session addresses some of the big challenges with regard to wave and tidal technology, which is how to make a device strong enough to withstand the extreme forces yet still cost-effective enough to generate economically. The big companies that have developed both wave and tidal devices are represented alongside wave power developer OPT. A research perspective is being provided by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center.

Operations & Maintenance

The operations and maintenance track at HydroVision International is always well-attended and provides a wealth of valuable information. One innovative new session being offered for 2012 is Outside the Powerhouse. During this discussion, panelists address O&M responsibilities extending beyond the powerhouse, including navigation locks, spillway gates, fish passage systems, debris management, recreational facilities and support buildings. Attendees learn how to maintain and prioritize routine workload, minimize unscheduled non-routing maintenance and address unexpected costs.

Two other key sessions are Environmental Considerations and Operating Requirements for Cybersecurity Compliance, says James R. Mahar, P.E., track chair and chief of operations for the Portland District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During the Environmental Considerations session, panelists explore environmental requirements while operating and maintaining a power plant on a lake or reservoir, including how ISO 14001, the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and/or Rivers & Harbors Act has changed O&M practices. In Operating Requirements for Cybersecurity Compliance, hydro project managers discuss how they have adapted to meet the North American Electric Reliability Corporation cybersecurity requirements.

Policies & Regulations

This track contains a session that is likely to offer some of the liveliest discussions at HydroVision: Navigating the FERC Regulatory Process. A broad mix of hydro project owners/operators, environmental nongovernmental organizations and legal experts discuss and debate the merits of regulating different sizes and classes of hydro and look at what might be gained or lost by society by modifying the underlying laws and regulations related to hydroelectric development and operation, says track chair Jay Maher, senior manager with Kleinschmidt Associates. Although the panel is U.S. focused, expect the debates to have applicable themes worldwide – whether a village in Alaska or the Yukon or a major development in Africa.

In Exploring Regulatory Policy throughout the World, the dynamics of having panelists from Brazil, Canada and the U.S. discuss the policies that affect the development of hydro provides attendees with a solid perspective on what is working and what hinders development, as well as the necessary trade-offs between power, environment and societal concerns. Look to this panel for a good overview for those exploring policy changes anywhere in the world.

Finally, Do Current Policies and Regulations Overlook the Benefits of Hydropower? gets to the heart of our industry and its potential. Is hydro getting a fair shake in the power market? Is pumped storage an effective means of energy storage, or are the tradeoffs too great? Are utilities and independent power producers using their hydro assets to their greatest energy and economic advantage, and is the value they receive commensurate with the operational capabilities of the asset? Do the independent system operators recognize the importance of the existing hydro in their systems, and can the development of additional hydro be an advantage in creating a stronger, more balanced system? These are examples of the type of high-level questions that will be discussed by international experts.

Water Resources

This track provides a variety of valuable sessions covering optimizing and valuing water, river basin transfers, trans-boundary partnerships, sediment management. The chair of this track is Michael A. Murphy, principal, environmental services for TRC/EPRO Engineering and Environmental Consulting Services.

Two sessions of particular interest in this track are Creating Basin-Wide Development Opportunities – Can We Work Together to Bring on New Hydropower? and Hydropower’s Role in Adapting to Climate Change.

In the basin-wide development session, panelists provide examples from around the world of efforts to find common ground for new water resources development. Topics include river segmenting, incremental development and factoring in benefits of development during planning.

With regard to climate change and hydro, panelists discuss how to apply lessons learned from adaptive management to future planning for climate change. In addition, the experts cover how model results can be scaled down to inform management decision-making and the role of storage, flood management and operational adaptations in response to future climate conditions.

Elizabeth Ingram is senior editor of Hydro Review and conference committee chair for HydroVision International.

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