The hydroelectric power plant in the Neue Hütte technology museum – located in Schmalkalden in eastern Germany – stood silent for many years. Now, the local company Gesellschaft energetischer Projekte has breathed new life into the plant with a CompactLogix™ Programmable Automation Controller (PAC), part of Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture platform
Getting old technology to work again is something that fascinates Frank Petter, who is an electrical engineer. That was why the hydropower system in the museum awoke his interest. Together with two business partners - a mechanical engineer and a master metalworker – he turned his hobby into a career and founded the company Gesellschaft energetischer Projekte (GeP). He is also its managing director. The firm specialises in the restoration and re-commissioning of old water mills and hydropower systems. “Our goal is to preserve historical technology for future generations,” explains Petter.
To do this, the company works with public bodies such as town councils or museums, as in this case. GeP wanted to reconnect the Neue Hütte technical museum’s hydropower system to the water network. They started by looking for an appropriate control solution – and found what they were looking for in the CompactLogix™ series of controllers. These are well suited to small and medium-sized machine applications.
Standstill in the Turbine System
At Neue Hütte, a neoclassical ironworks founded in Schmalkalden in 1835, local iron ore was turned into pig iron using coal up until 1924. Neue Hütte is one of the last examples of this technology in Central Europe. In 1921, the ironworks was extended with a turbine facility that used hydropower to generate electricity for machines and lighting in the factory. With a second turbine added in 1938, the hydropower plant continued producing electricity right up to the 1960s. Today, the building complex has been restored as a technology museum. It bears witness to the size and technical equipment typically found in an early industrial blast furnace. In 2000, the hydropower system was restored too, but only ran for 18 months. “After that, it was at a standstill,” says Frank Petter. “Technical control problems were the main issue with it.”