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Extending the life of hydropower plants with 3D laser scanning

Hydropower plants can last for an extraordinary length of time, many power plants built at the beginning of the 20th century still produce electricity today. This longevity is unheard of in the renewable energy world and sets hydropower apart. Identifying and repairing aging infrastructure at the right moment can help extend the life of power plants even further.

Like any infrastructure, hydropower plants will eventually show signs of aging. With extensive use, flood gates can get jammed and hydraulic engineering control elements that help adjust the water level of discharge can see their performance diminished. This can cause water levels to peak and, in the worse case scenario, result in dam failure.

Detecting and repairing wear and tear early can help reduce the cost of operation and maintenance for hydropower owners and operators. But detecting damage on structural elements that are submerged is not easy. Especially if precision is required. Traditionally, gate inspections are performed ahead of refurbishment projects by divers, who are only able to provide a limited number of data points. Data is often long to analyse: for diving campaigns performed in the summer, operators have to wait until winter to receive a final report.

Initially developed by Hydro-Québec, Canada’s largest power utility, WireScan is a laser scanning tool that produces accurate, instant 3D scans of vertical surfaces such as dam walls, gates and stoplog slots for hydropower facilities.

Since 2020, more than 100 inspections have already been conducted on facilities owned by Hydro-Québec, BC Hydro and NB Power. ASI is now commercialising the inspection services on a wider scale. With a millimetric precision in still water and a high data point density, the system can detect small defects like wheel marks and thin cracks.

World Hydropower Congress

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Overview

  • High-precision 3D laser scans, referenced by plumb lines to get reliable flatness and verticality measurements for any heigh (patented system)
  • Below and above the water line
  • Usable where water visibility is >1m
  • Current maximum vertical coverage: 30m
  • Usable in calm waters, where water displacement <50mm/s around the plums (at the bottom)
  • Low sensitivity to waves or water displacement at the surface (high mechanical tension in the wires)
  • Immediate confirmation of measurement results available on site, with automatically-generated charts
  • Compact and portable device, usable in tight spaces, on job sites and in various hostile environments

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