A new H2020 project led by the UPC aims to improve the production of hydroelectric power

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Xavier Escaler, a UPC researcher and the coordinator of the AFC4Hydro project, at the Svorka power plant in Surnadal (Norway).

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Morten Kjeldsen, from Flow Design Bureau AS, examining the suction tube at the Svorka power plant in Surnadal (Norway) before visually studying the turbine’s outflow.

Xavier Escaler, a researcher at the UPC’s Centre for Industrial Diagnostics and Fluid Dynamics, is leading the European project AFC4Hydro, which aims to design and validate an active flow control (AFC) system for hydraulic turbines to monitor the structural health of turbines in real time and improve their performance. The idea is to develop technologies that allow the growth of renewables in the European integrated electricity generation system.

Jul 25, 2019

A consortium made up of researchers from several universities and companies received funding from the European Commission within the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme to complete the project “Active flow control system for improving hydraulic turbine performances at off-design operation” (AFC4Hydro), which will prevent the harmful flow phenomena that can occur inside the machines. The professor and researcher Xavier Escaler, from the Centre for Industrial Diagnostics and Fluid Dynamics (CDIF) and the Department of Fluid Mechanics at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), is leading the project, which focuses on developing new technology to improve hydroelectricity production and, thus, promote the growth of renewable energies in the European integrated electricity generation system. The project partners estimate the market value of their future implementation to be around €1.5 billion and that it will mainly benefit small and medium-sized enterprises.

The project specifically aims to design, implement and validate an active flow control (AFC) system for hydraulic turbines to monitor the structural health of turbines in real time and act on their internal flow through water jet and pressure pulse injection. The system can thus mitigate the harmful flows that occur in the machines when they are operating under off-design conditions or when they are subjected to transients. An additional aim is for this new technology to increase turbines’ flexibility by extending their operating range and increasing their performance, and it will also improve their reliability by increasing their life cycle and reducing the maintenance costs associated with wear and tear.

Tests in laboratories and hydroelectric power plants
Luleå University of Technology (Sweden), the companies Flow Design Bureau AS (Norway) and Stiftelsen Porjus Vattenkraftcenter (Sweden) and two of the largest hydroelectricity producers in Europe, namely Statkraft (Norway) and Vattenfall (Sweden), also participate in the project.

AFC4Hydro technology will be tested in the laboratories of the two universities involved, that is, in the Hydraulics Laboratory of the Department of Fluid Mechanics at the Barcelona School of Industrial Engineering (ETSEIB) and in Luleå, in a reduced-scale hydraulic turbine test bench in Sweden and in regular turbine units in Norway and Sweden, where field tests will be conducted to demonstrate the viability of the project in industrial environments.

The AFC4Hydro project, which has a duration of four years, started on 1 June and obtained €4.7 million in funding from the European Commission.