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Hydropower operators discuss ‘new reality’ of digitalisation

Hydropower operators discuss ‘new reality’ of digitalisation

1 October 2018 

With benefits including reduced operation and maintenance costs, and enhanced data analysis and project management, the digitalisation of hydropower projects and their control systems is a growing trend in the industry.

A recent workshop organised by the the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with support from the International Hydropower Association (IHA) explored how digital systems are advancing the operations, maintenance and modernisation of hydropower projects.

Hosted by the Joint Technical Commission of Salto Grande between 27 and 28 August 2018 at the Salto Grande hydroelectric complex, a major binational hydropower project on the Uruguay River between Argentina and Uruguay, the workshop looked at how to plan and implement digitalisation processes into hydropower projects. More than 130 people attended including representatives of IHA member and partner organisations based in South America, North and Central America, Asia and Europe.

“This workshop was a great opportunity to start a dialogue about the digitalisation of hydropower in Latin America, where hydro still provides around half of the electricity,” said Arturo Alarcón, Senior Regional Energy Specialist at IDB. “Digitalisation is the new reality for the sector. The faster we embrace it, the sooner we will get its benefits.”

Research by IHA forecasts that, by 2030, over half of the world’s hydropower plants will be due for upgrade and modernisation or will have already been renovated.

“Digitalisation provides an opportunity to optimise the design, development and operation of hydropower assets,” said IHA’s Chief Executive Richard Taylor. “It was great to bring together so many IHA members to share their experience and plans – the workshop was a hugely valuable forum to learn about the opportunities digitalisation can bring to the sector.”

One of the participants, Nuno Guedes, Area Director at Energias de Portugal (EDP), spoke about a recent contract signed with GE for a five-year asset management and digitalisation programme at several EDP hydropower plants in Portugal and Spain. “With these digital tools we expect to have more capability of analysing the data of these plants and to better decide how to invest and control their lifecycles,” he said.

Workshop participants had the chance to visit the Salto Grande hydroelectric complex. The project’s operator has been reviewing how new digital technology can provide performance improvements for the plant, which has been in operation since 1982.

The IHA-IDB workshop is part of a series of events leading up to the 2019 World Hydropower Congress between 14-16 May 2019.

IHA also addressed digitalisation, climate change and sustainability at a workshop in Paris, France, on 19 September 2018. To find out more, visit the event web page.

Last week IDB and IHA signed a partnership agreement to support sustainable development involving hydropower across Latin America and the Caribbean. Read more.