Pohjolan Voima. Vas. Tommi Hansen-Haug PVO:lta ja Istvan Selek Kierikin voimalaitoksella suorittamassa testejä Hype säätövoima projektissa.

PVO-Vesivoima and the University of Oulu have jointly developed a completely new type of turbine governor that can regulate the electricity production of hydropower plants significantly more accurately than before. In addition to accuracy, it spares the machinery from wear and tear. The developed turbine governor utilising machine learning is the most advanced turbine governor developed for hydropower. Patent protection is being applied for the invention.

The collaboration is an example of exceptional production development in which academic expertise and the input of a private company has resulted in a solution directly applicable to production. 

“Such cooperation is very rare in hydropower production, as the development of new equipment is usually commissioned from commercial partners. For us, the biggest advantage came from having access to the university’s superior expertise in regulation theory and mathematics. They also understood how to translate the theory into a solution,” says Tommi Hansen-Haug, PVO-Vesivoima’s automation specialist. 

István Selek of the University’s Intelligent Machines and Systems research unit and Joni Vasara, who doing doctoral research on the topic, were involved in the development. Development work started in 2017.  

“For us, the project was a rare opportunity to put our knowledge into practice. Collaboration with universities is not generally something that is prioritised by companies, but I recommend it. Universities can offer new perspectives on problem-solving in a cost-effective way,” says Selek. 

Selek is also an adjunct professor of dynamic process and energy systems at the University of Oulu. 

Patent application submitted for the world’s most advanced turbine governor 

PVO-Vesivoima has submitted a patent application for the turbine governor in March this year. The innovation is expected to be granted a patent by the end of the year. 

The new turbine governor was also a necessary development step. In 2023 the transmission system operator Fingrid introduced new criteria for power plants participating in the reserve electricity market. Participation in the reserve market requires a constant reaction from the hydropower plant machinery so that the frequency of the electricity network can be kept stable. 

According to István Selek, the new turbine governor represents a world best in terms of the frequency containment reserve. By utilising machine learning it can identify interactions that control the changes in the electricity network frequency and inline the turbine movements accurately to them. The most recent version that is to be patented is in testing phase and awaits Fingrid’s approval before entering operation. It is planned to replace the older versions step by step. 

The previous versions of the turbine governor are already in use at all PVO-Vesivoima’s own power plants in the rivers Iijoki, Kokemäenjoki and Kemijoki. A total of 15 turbine governors are in operation. Thanks to this development work, PVO-Vesivoima remains the only Nordic company to have passed the stricter new regulation requirements of the transmission system operators for the Kaplan turbine, which is typically used in river power plants. 

Preparing for future requirements by strengthening balancing power 

With the turbine governor, PVO-Vesivoima will meet the stricter requirements of Fingrid and the market regarding stability and capability, linearity and speed of regulation. The production of electricity must be adjusted to correspond to instantaneous electricity consumption levels.  

The more electricity is produced with wind and sun, the more complex the production of reserve electricity becomes, as in addition to consumption, electricity production becomes more and more variable. Hydropower is the most important producer of balancing power. 

“It’s also important for us to be prepared with energy reserve solutions that meet the future requirements. We have been engaged in persistent and systematic development. Now the individual machines can support frequency, and the river regulation automation that was introduced earlier will be in the background, boosting the production of balancing power,” says Hansen-Haug. 

The river regulation automation and the turbine governor produced in cooperation with the university are examples of the continuous development in hydropower. To ensure flexible electricity production PVO-Vesivoima will pilot an energy storage with ultracapacitors, and an investigation is underway on the possibility to build a pumped hydroelectric storage in Kemijärvi. The modernised hydropower plants are constantly being developed to take environmental values better into account and to better respond to the electricity grid’s requirements. This work is done by taking advantage of digitalisation. 

Additional information:  

Tommi Hansen-Haug, automation specialist, PVO-Vesivoima Oy, tommi.hansen-haug@pvo.fi, tel. +358 50 3038 629 

István Selek, postdoctoral researcher, adjunct professor of dynamic process and energy systems University of Oulu, Intelligent Machines and Systems research unit, istvan.selek@oulu.fi,  

tel. +358 50 3506 837 

Joni Vasara, M. Sc., doctoral student, University of Oulu, Intelligent Machines and Systems research unit, joni.vasara@oulu.fi, tel. +358 50 4302 268 

Photo: On the left Tommi Hansen-Haug from PVO-Vesivoima Oy and on the right Istvan Selek from Oulu University.