Innovation is at the heart of hydropower. And innovation is at the heart of the refurbishment of the sixteen turbines at Chief Joseph power plant in Washington state, the second largest hydro power plant in the US.
The refurbishment boosted efficiency by more than 6%, exceeding 95%, and brought an increase in plant output of 20%, bringing an additional capacity of 240 megawatts for the plant . That’s enough to power several dozen thousands additional homes compared to the 50-year-old runners being replaced.
However, one big challenge stood in the way of a smooth refurbishment: the plant’s 50-year-old steel stay vanes.
Conventional stay vane refurbishment involves amongst others heavy steel component handling, and welding in confined space, requiring careful operation and leading to extended installation and outage time.
THE BIG IDEA
GE’s team stepped in to change the game. They made the first ever stay vanes out of new, composite materials, that were just as sturdy as steel but far easier to work with and put in place. They even invented a whole new manufacturing process just for the project.
Chief Joseph was the first ever installation of these new stay vanes and it took just three days to install two – about half the time needed to install steel stay vanes . First years of operation have demonstrated a flawless reliability and the technique is on its way to reveal its great potential to the hydropower industry.
This innovation contributes to make Chief Joseph refurbished turbines the most efficient turbines own by the US Army Corps of Engineers.