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VEO-eHPG – born out of necessity, developed for a better tomorrow

VEO’s long-standing work in hydropower has reached a new milestone with the launch of our new innovation, the hybrid turbine governor (VEO-eHPG).

While the ongoing transition to low-emission energy production gives hope for a more sustainable future, it also creates a need for new technological advances. Known for its innovative solutions, VEO has developed a hybrid digital turbine governor (the VEO-eHPG), which combines the energy production of a hydropower turbine with electrical energy storage. The idea for this innovation came, as ideas often do, out of a problem:

The thought of utilising electricity storage in turbine regulation started to take shape in Jukka Kelloniemi’s head in 2018. Kelloniemi, the Team Leader in VEO’s hydropower automation team, had together with clients discovered that there was a returning worry in the field of hydropower: due to constant mechanical movement, frequency regulation wears out the turbine and its mechanical regulation devices.

”This problem called for an innovative system, in which mechanical regulation would be replaced by a battery of some sort without being too costly”, Kelloniemi recalls.

Developed out of trust

To see how Kelloniemi’s idea would work in practice, VEO’s client gave Kelloniemi’s team the permission to do its primary testing on two different sets of machinery. The turbines were commanded to regulate frequency, one with a normal turbine governor and the other with a governor equipped with an add-on simulating Kelloniemi’s idea.

“It takes an open mind and much courage from a client to allow their machinery to be used for something that does not have a single reference yet”, says Kelloniemi, when reflecting on the product development process that led to what was to become the VEO-eHPG hybrid digital turbine governor.

After four years of research and development, Kelloniemi and his team proudly presented a unique software that integrates energy storage technologies with the frequency reserve regulation of a hydropower turbine. The VEO-eHPG’s dynamic regulation optimises and minimises the need for mechanical regulation of the hydropower turbine, resulting in reduced wear and maintenance costs.

Dynamic regulation stabilises the grid

When discussing the new turbine governor with Fingrid, the national TSO responsible for the frequency regulation of the Finnish grid, it turned out that the VEO-eHPG could do far more than prolong the lifespan of hydropower turbines. It could also improve the reserve power characteristics of hydropower plants – and thus help stabilise the grid.

“The VEO-eHPG continuously monitors the state of charge of energy storage and keeps it in the right range. It efficiently controls both the storage and the turbine in response to changes in network frequency, thereby ensuring precise control. It contributes to keeping the grid stable and distribution undisturbed”, Kelloniemi explains.

With the VEO-eHPG, interconnected electricity storage can be used as a Frequency Containment Reserve (FCR) but also a Fast Frequency Reserve (FFR). In FCR production the hybrid governor controls the charge level of the electricity storage, constantly keeping it within the right range. When the FFR is used due to a disturbance, the governor restores the reserve energy with extra energy from the turbine in a way that does not add stress to the grid.

Rapid responses to deviations

Hydropower plants equipped with even a relatively small-scale hybrid solution might have a large societal impact in the future. When the power grid is malfunctioning, a hydropower plant with a VEO-eHPG can restore power in an isolated part of the network through a so-called ‘black start’ process. This way power supply to a socially essential entity can be secured.

“The increase of weather-dependant energy sources causes more frequency deviations in our grids, and hydropower plants have an increasingly important role in compensating them. In Finland, we have a great number of small-scale hydropower plants with a capacity of under 10 MW. Their significance to the electricity transmission system has thus far been overlooked, but with VEO’s new hybrid system, small hydropower plants may turn out to be real life-savers one day”, imagines Kelloniemi.

The VEO-eHPG’s dynamic regulation optimises and minimises the need for mechanical regulation of the hydropower turbine, resulting in reduced wear and maintenance costs.