Simulation models optimize water power

Jul 31, 2014

The Columbia River basin in the Pacific Northwest offers great potential for water power; hydroelectric power stations there generate over 20 000 megawatts already. Now a simulation model will help optimize the operation of the extensive dam system.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Ilmenau are developing information technology to make water power generation systems more efficient. The Advanced System Technology (AST) department is creating simulation and optimization models that consolidate external factors such as weather data, water levels and market prices with system infrastructure and generate optimized plans for operational facilities, such as the opening and closing of sluice gates, reservoir water level regulation and hydro turbine operation. This information helps the operator to fine-tune each station's generating power to meet current energy economics and to sell the generated power for the highest possible return.

22,000 MW in the Columbia River basin

Following projects in Germany and China, and in cooperation with the Dutch-American company Deltares, IOSB researchers are now applying their expertise to one of the world's largest hydropower operators. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) in the northwest of the United States runs a complex and extensive dam system in the Columbia River basin that collectively generates around 22,000 megawatts (MW). This is more than five times the output in Germany, which operates some 7500 on rivers and lakes and generates 4300 MW. More than 12 million people live in the BPA's catchment area, which covers parts of the U.S. states Oregon, Washington, Montana, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Together with Deltares, researchers on the HyPROM project have developed a functioning simulation and optimization model that ensures the best possible operation of the BPA dam system based on predefined parameters.

"Very different parameters come into play when it comes to generating hydroelectric power – rainfall levels, volume and speed of the water, not to mention general climate factors. At the same time, regulations regarding the protection of fish, flood control or environmental guidelines have to be accommodated," says Dr. Divas Karimanzira from the IOSB project team. "Hydroelectric plants can be operated optimally only when you take all the variables into account. As an additional challenge, HyPROM takes on the complexity of the extensively networked Columbia River basin dam system – it covers two different rivers with an average water flow of 7,500 cubic meters per second, ten hydro plants, ten reservoirs and an altitude difference of 350 meters."

Currently, researchers are working on expanding the simulation and optimization model to better encompass energy-economic aspects, bearing in mind the fluctuating availability of wind and solar energy as well as randomly changing market prices. "Then we can incorporate even more information in our calculations. This creates a scenario that comes much closer to reality," explains Karimanzira.

The project partners plan to integrate the newly developed technology into a system that will help employees to make the right decisions in running the facility. The aim for the future is to enable BPA to adjust its entire control and management system in under an hour to react to changing circumstances. That way, BPA could choose to sell hydroelectric power only when the price is right. At other times, it could replenish its reservoirs to empty them later, when it makes economic sense or is technically necessary. "For operators who sell not only hydroelectric energy but also other energy sources with a fluctuating supply, such as wind and solar energy, the price is an especially important factor," says Karimanzira.

Explore further: Pumped hydro offers storage solution for renewables

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

River rises; Northwest wind farms, plants cut back

May 18, 2011

(AP) -- Wind farms and fossil-fuel power plants in the Pacific Northwest were all but shut down for five hours early Wednesday as the Columbia River basin's hydroelectric generators ran at full capacity and river managers ...

Group responds to potential NW wind power shutdown

May 18, 2011

(AP) -- Wind power companies facing a springtime shutdown to accommodate a surge of hydropower in the Northwest said Tuesday the region's main power manager has a conflict of interest, using authority over transmission lines ...

Virtual power plants for renewable energies

Apr 27, 2012

Siemens recently put two virtual power plants into operation. Virtual power plants are networks of several small power stations that are run like a single system. One of the new virtual power plants enables ...

Recommended for you

Congress: Safety agency mishandled GM recall

53 minutes ago

Both houses of Congress scolded the U.S. highway safety agency Tuesday over its tardy handling of a deadly problem with General Motors cars, questioning whether it is competent to guarantee the safety of ...

Jindal: Obama hasn't done enough to harness energy

13 hours ago

The governor of the state of Louisiana, a possible Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday that President Barack Obama's administration has become "science deniers," failing to do enough to harness the nation's energy ...

User comments : 0