By now digitalisation affects all areas of daily life as well as industry. And it does not stop at hydropower with its more than 100 years of experience. Already in the past, VERBUND - as the largest domestic hydropower operator - has been a pioneer in the areas of automation and the computer-aided control of facilities. What was groundbreaking a few decades ago, such as the complete remote control of all the power plants on the Danube, is today the proven standard.
Now VERBUND is taking new, innovative steps to give hydropower’s high efficiency and reliability another boost. As a leader in digitalisation initiatives in the area of hydropower, VERBUND along with VGB PowerTech, the European power plant association, is hosting an international expert workshop. Top experts from all the large hydropower companies in Europe have accepted the invitation to this first conference focusing exclusively on the digitalisation opportunities hydropower offers, in order to exchange information on the newest trends and visions along with scientists and manufacturers.
VERBUND as first user and front runner in the area of digital hydropower plants
"VERBUND has always been a leader in researching and testing new applications in the area of generation, in order to increase efficiency and reduce costs. With our innovation programme under the motto 'Hydropower 4.0 - digital hydropower plant' we are setting new, ambitious goals. We are investigating all conceivable possibilities for using existing or yet to be developed digital auxiliary methods with hydropower. In doing so, we are in part breaking completely new ground, so that in the end we can make use of further considerable efficiency and safety potential", board member Günther Rabensteiner outlines VERBUND’s strategic goals. Rabensteiner sees the company as a first mover and as a development partner along with research and industry. "VERBUND is already anticipating and setting the course for the future of hydropower in tomorrow’s digital world."
To the hydropower plant of the future with volumes of data
"As we envision it, the hydropower plant of the future will be as transparent as a consumer is for Google already today", states Karl Heinz Gruber, Technical Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH. This hydropower subsidiary of VERBUND has set itself the goal of creating the first comprehensively digital hydropower plant in Europe, using the example of the Rabenstein power plant on the Mur in Styria.
As a first step, all components and parts of the facility, whether in the air or under water, have been or will be digitalised by means of a laser scan and documented systematically on a special, very complex data platform.
These data will subsequently be linked via to-be-developed algorithms with the existing information and the multiplicity of ongoing measurement values from the power plant.
In order to get a truly comprehensive picture of the entire facility, as part of the ongoing digitalisation programme other additional digital auxiliary methods are being investigated for generating important supplementary data. Already proven systems from other sectors are being tested, as well as systems to be developed in conjunction with science and industry, such as innovative sensors or the use of self-guiding digital measuring computers above and below the water.
Vision: digital advice for maintenance and simulations
Thanks to new methods of analysis and the use of self-learning computer systems, new insights into the respective current state of the facility should be gained from the flood of data that will then be available. With special computer simulations using the status detections and prognoses - in conjunction with the "history" of a facility - downtimes and repairs will be optimised.
"Our goal is to very precisely identify the momentary state of the important power plant components in a sort of ‘transparent power plant’, so that we can act at the right time to avoid possible breakdowns due to unforeseen damage", Karl Heinz Gruber outlines the future of hydropower.
In addition to the many technological innovations in the area of machinery, VERBUND is also working on a project, likewise unique in Europe, for digital support of the work processes during operation and maintenance of the hydropower plant.
Thus for the first time a comprehensive "digital workforce management" will be introduced. From work scheduling to planning, arrangement and implementation and on to documentation and feedback, the employees will receive IT-based support. Digital plans will be available on the mobile end device, and data banks will help with recommendations for the maintenance measures. "Ideally the employee will get specific suggestions already beforehand for the necessary replacement parts and tools", as Karl Heinz Gruber describes the possible future work routine in a digital power plant.
In Vienna, first international exchange of experience on digitalisation of hydropower
At VERBUND’s invitation and in cooperation with VGB PowerTech, on 12 April 2018 an international expert workshop on digitalisation in the area of hydropower will be held in Vienna. Karl Heinz Gruber, who is also chairman of VGB’s chief hydropower committee, exults: "We have managed to bring top experts from 45 operating and manufacturing companies from 12 countries together, who will for the first time exchange experiences exclusively on current trends and visions regarding the future of hydropower 4.0. I assume that this will spark off an additional turbo in the area of digitalisation."