The 20th iteration of the renowned international conference on hydroelectric power, Viennahydro, will run from November 14 to 16 of this year at Laxenburg castle right outside of Vienna.
Hardly any other industry event at the national or international level has been able to establish a reputation of this caliber in the past decades. This is primarily due to the outstanding quality of topics. After all, the high-quality event committee, which comprises 35 members, only admits papers that feature high levels of innovation, academic maturity and professional development. For the 20th anniversary, the focus is on future-oriented topics including "big data," "the digital twin," or the "web-of-cells." Of course, more "traditional" topics, such as issues related to pumped-storage, intelligent business leadership, or problems related to transient behavior will also be addressed. Roughly 300 participants from up to 25 nations are expected to meet in Laxenburg.
Combined, the conference transcripts, which have been published and distributed to Viennahydro participants by the TU Wien organizers since 1980, amount to roughly five times the amount of pages of Tolstoy's "War and Peace", approximately 10,000 pages. For the first time, this information is now organized in an archive and digitally accessible – on a flash drive that will be part of this year's welcome packet for the participants. This provides not only an interesting look at the past for anyone interested in hydroelectric power, but is also evidence of the high quality of the papers that were presented and discussed during past conference sessions. Dr. Eduard Doujak, who shares the leadership of the event management team with Prof. Dr. Ing Christian Bauer, notes that one central commitment has been and still is keeping the level of topics and presentations as high as possible. "The international organizing committee, which now consists of 35 people, carries the majority of the responsibility. The committee's concentrated academic competence ensures that mediocre or lackluster papers are not included," explains Dr. Eduard Doujak, whose research at TU Wien's Institute for Energy Systems and Thermodynamics at which the bi-annual conference Viennahydro is organized, focuses on Fluid-Flow Machinery.
An international focus
A unique feature of Viennahydro is the opportunity for doctoral students from all over the world to present their research area and research activity to a wide audience. This year marks the third time that doctoral students are able to take advantage of this option, which has become more popular each year. "We provide doctoral students with the wonderful opportunity of presenting their work at on international stage. We are happy that students have been taking advantage of this more and more. This year, we have already received a number of submissions, from Norway, or Germany, or Austria," Eduard Doujak states happily.
The event as a whole has a strong international focus. This year, international topics will be presented by participants from the US, Canada, Sweden, Thailand, and Nepal, to name a few. Thus, there lots of diversity in the auditorium at Viennahydro: "I can already observe an interesting mixture for this year. We expect participants from 20 to 25 countries," says Eduard Doujak. The time-honored Laxenburg castle, whose oldest parts are from the 12th century, provides the perfect back-ground for the three-day long event.
Future topics at the center
However, the space is the only thing that can be described as time-honored. As in previous years, the event itself will remain true to its orientation and focus, which is not only on hot current topics among hydroelectric power insiders, but also future topics. "Especially at universities, we should think about future developments and perspectives and conduct research in this regard," notes Eduard Doujak and points to some particularly exciting future questions that will also be examined at the upcoming Viennahydro.
One of them is "Big Data", which is its own focal area at the event. "At its core, this is a topic that is currently quite pertinent, but many questions remain unanswered and yet it offers lots of potential for hydroelectric power," argues the TU Wien researcher. Even today, measuring devices, sensors and the machines themselves provide a wide array of data. But what happens to the data? Initial software systems are already on the market and designed to provide solutions for the following questions: What are the best ways to filter, process, manage, and analyze the variety of data? Which conclusions can be drawn? The researchers participating in Vienna- hydro are also dealing with these questions and will provide profound answers at Viennahydro.
Web-of-cells and pumped-storage
The topic "web-of-cells" seems even more futuristic and is reflected in the primary topic "flexible operation of modern hydroelectric plants and their interaction with the electrical grid." This involves the planned, geographically divided, smaller cells of a power grid - with a hierarchy structured into high voltage, medium voltage, and low voltage cells. They are the foundation for even more intelligent grids, in order to prepare the grid infrastructure in accordance with the European guidelines for the achievement of energy efficiency goals. Through intentional decentralization, problems arising in this context would be solved at the local level, or at least this is the intention. "Fundamentally, this is an issue of energy-efficiency or the power grid. However, it does affect hydroelectric power, since it provides one of the most important storage technologies, pumped-storage. Intended for the time after 2030, this is a long-term plan – and is therefore a vision of the future," says Eduard Doujak. In this context, it points to the technology of the modular pump turbine, which has been in development for several years at IET under the leadership of Eduard Doujak. "The web-of-cells could play an important role in the modular pump turbine, as it would meet the requirements very well. We are taking the necessary steps to make this technology market-ready." Of course, there will be a space dedicated to pumped-storage in general, and the modular pump turbine in particular at Viennahydro.
How much time is left?
Another very exciting research area of the department for Energy Systems and Thermodynamics (IET) is the calculation of the remaining service life. The method was already introduced at the last conference in 2016, at which the research findings of the previous four years were presented. "Basically we are trying to predict the service life of the turbine runner and eventually of the guide apparatus, i.e. how long the components will be operational under the conditions – load stage, service life, etc." explains Eduard Doujak, adding: "Today, Francis turbines are operated at various performance levels – for example, at the hydroelectric plant Obervermunt II from 0 to 100%. This also changes the load, which is much more dynamic. Therefore, new, different methods of calculation are required. Recently, the methods of calculation are still very elaborate, and therefore not quite of interest for design development. The TU Wien researcher found the scope of application for the recalculation of the turbine runners of greater importance, for which a higher demand could arise in the future. The topic area of calculating the remaining service life will also generate lots of interest and lively discussions this year.
"Digital twin" arrives at hydro power
An additional future-oriented topic with great potential comes to us from the concept Industry 4.0: the "digital" or "virtual twin." It is a visionary approach for industrial production processes that has long found application in other areas. The core of the idea is the merging of real and digital systems to one autonomous, intelligent unit. It also involves much more than a mere digital copy of the real system. The "digital twin" can be used for interventions at the virtual level and to make changes that can be simulated in real time. Vice versa, changes emerging in the real system – for whatever reason – can be implemented in the "digital twin." "Thanks to the merging of real and virtual processes, a holistic system is created that monitors, manages, and corrects itself during operation," note the researchers at the German Fraunhofer Institute for Production Plants and Construction Technology. This statement alone illustrates the potential also emerges for further developments in hydroelectric power. At this year's Viennahydro, participants will discuss which further questions can be developed based on this foundation.
In addition to future-oriented topics, the Viennahydro program will also feature other more "traditional" topics, such as hydraulic systems and transient behavior, intelligent operation and monitoring, maintenance, retrofitting and modernization, the numeric calculation of hydraulic components, experimental techniques and physical models, small-scale hydroelectric power with very low head turbines and hydro-kinetic turbines, legal questions, and sustainability.
Presentation of the hydraulic laboratory
As always, the exhibition area also plays a crucial role in the event. At Viennahydro in Laxenburg, participating companies will find a perfect environment to introduce their products and services to "key players" in hydroelectric power. Typically, numerous decision-makers make extensive use of the proximity to the exhibition area.
Just in time for the 20th anniversary, a true novelty can be experienced at this year's conference. Last year, IET's entire laboratory was migrated to a newer, larger, more modern facility at TU Wien. In this context, the operation of the hydraulic laboratory was also initiated, which currently holds a unique position at the university level. "There will be an opportunity to tour the facilities during the conference. However, it has not yet been determined how exactly this will be done. Interested parties, however, will be able to take a look at our laboratory," Eduard Doujak clarifies. He also refers to the calendar of social events, which also remains unmatched: On the evening of the first day of the conference, participants will be able to visit the Heeresgeschichtliche Museum [Museum of army history], which includes a reception in the tasteful ambiance of this space. Already a tradition, a visit to the typical, super cozy Viennese wine tavern Fuhrgassl-Huber is scheduled for the evening of the second day. Both evening events are an appreciated obligation for most Viennahydro participants. From November 14 to 16, Laxenburg castle will once again be the center of the world of hydroelectric power. For three days, the heart of hydroelectric power will beat right outside of Vienna.