The hydroelectric plant is a 660 MW power station – located in the area of Medellín, Colombia – that harnesses the energy stored in the water confined by a 150 m high and 426 m wide dam. The owner of the plant, a Colombian multi-utility company, engaged GEA Orengine, an established company in the energy sector from Genoa, Italy, to build an auxiliary plant based on Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture in order to recover 2.5 MW of power which otherwise would have been wasted.
This may seem to be a small amount with respect to the potential that each one of the four 172 MW Francis turbines can generate, but the result achieved is truly laudable in addition to being 100% sustainable. The 2.5 MW capacity increase provides enough electrical energy to meet the needs of about 1,000 additional apartments, or 5,000 people, which is equivalent to an entire village.
But how was it possible to recover an additional 2.5 MW, especially in the shape of a hydraulic-turbine driven mini hydroelectric plant that can recuperate its costs very quickly, if fully exploited, in just three years? It was made possible by exploiting the Minimum Vital Flow (MVF), which is the minimum amount of water that must be allowed to flow by any water retention facility, such as a dam, to ensure the ecological integrity and the morphological protection of the watercourse being exploited.
As Mauro Brialdi, GEA Orengine International Automation Director explained: “The project implemented in this plant is symbolic of what can now be considered to be our expertise, i.e. mini hydroelectric plants with a typical range of operation between 50 kW and 10 MW.” The company’s technical staff working in the Lavagna port area, most of whom are engineers, are responsible for practically everything that needs to be done on the project from the design of the hydraulic turbines, to the power transformation systems and associated automation. And this is where Rockwell Automation comes into play.
“Besides Italy, we operate worldwide – especially in Central and South America”, he continues. “For the activities in these markets, Rockwell Automation is a standard for us, especially in terms of the quality and the performance of its automation solutions, for the wide acceptance that its solutions enjoy on the American continent and also for the on-site support that its staff always delivers.”