“Voith will play a vital role in driving digital transformation in hydropower sector”

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Martin Andrä ,Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Voith Hydro Holding GMBH and Co. KGMartin Andrä
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Voith Hydro Holding GMBH and Co. KG

The Germany-based Voith Hydro Holding GMBH and Co. KG is a global manufacturer of electromechanical equipments for hydropower projects. Founded in 1867, the company has been manufacturing equipments for mini and small hydropower projects to currently largest possible capacity of 1,000MW. The family-owned multinational firm having 150 years of expertise in the field has supplied equipments for over 300,000MW worldwide, one-third of the total hydropower capacity in the world. Voith Hydro started supplying equipments to projects in Nepal in 1968 with the installation of three units of 5.52 MW each for Gandak Hydroelectric Power Plant developed by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). The company over the years has provided a number of projects with turbines, pumps, generators and other hydromechanical equipments. Voith Hydro recently opened its office in Nepal. Martin Andrä, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Voith Hydro Holding GMBH and Co. KG was in the capital for the inaugural function of its Nepal office. In an interview with New Business Age, Andrä talked about the company’s business in Nepal, new strategies and future plans. Excerpts:

Voith is one of the world's leading suppliers of hydropower equipment, technology and services. What are your plans on implementing Voith’s latest technology in Nepal?
Voith Hydro has been in a leading position in the global hydropower industry for the last 150 years due to its long experience and innovation and by providing the most efficient low-cost electricity power generation technology. With large-scale integration of renewable, Voith Hydro is able to supply the most secure and stable systems to its customers to enable them achieve long-term profitability and important multipurpose benefits. 

In addition, environmentally-friendly turbine design is one of our key developments. We invest in technology that is safer for aquatic animals and better for maintaining water quality. We can also provide oil-free solutions where necessary. For Nepal where the rivers are laden with silt especially in the monsoon season, Voith’s technology of erosion resistant turbines can greatly benefit the hydroelectricity producers. Our technology is dedicated not only in using, but also in preserving the sustainable resources. 

We have been supplying equipment and systems based on the latest technologies in all markets and segments to meet specific needs our customers. We are active in providing systems and solutions to large and small HEPs, pumped storage, modernisation, services, automation etc. 

Additionally, digitisation in engineering offers our customers excellent opportunities. It allows them to address challenges in manufacturing and to create new opportunities thus giving benefit from a competitive edge. 

Voith is already venturing into large sized power units and has ambitious plans to venture into 1GW machines. Can you elaborate on this?
Voith is the provider of hydropower plants in all areas from small to large HEPs. Some of our largest clients include the Chinese Three Gorges and Brazilian Itaipu. 

Regarding the GW class, Voith has been awarded a contract from the Three Gorges Corporation three years ago for the delivery of several units of 850 MW each for the Wu Dong De project in China. The contract is under execution in our company in Shanghai.

Voith has an impressive footprint in Nepal already. How do you see the further development enfolding in the country?
Voith’s history in Nepal has started in 1968 with the installation of 3 units of5.52 MW for Gandak HEP developed by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). We have supplied:

  • 4 units of 3 MW for Trishuli HEP (1970)
  • 2 units of 30 MW for Kulekhani I HEP (1982)
  • 3 units of 26 MW for Marsyangdi (1990) 
  • 2 units of37.9 MW for Middle Marsyangdi (2008)

Similarly, the projects currently being executed include:

  • 3 units of 37 MW for Rasuwagadhi
  • 3 units of 9 MW for Dordi Khola
  • 3 units of 7.2 MW for Lower Hewa Khola
  • 2 units of 6.8 MW for Thapa Khola 
  • 3 units of 14 MW for Mistri Khola 

Theoretically, Nepal’s hydropower potential has been estimated to be around 84,000 MW, of which 43,000 MW has been identified as commercially feasible. Currently, Nepal’s installed hydropower capacity is 753 MW. Although Nepal suffers from regular energy shortages, the available hydropower resources could provide a large surplus if strategically developed with a view to foster the regional energy trade.

How do you see the role of digitisation in hydropower sector and how can developers and producers reap the benefits of Voith latest technologies in this area?
Considering the fact that many hydropower plants are at remote locations, real time monitoring is fundamentally needed. Voith has developed solutions to provide remote information about generation, tripping, outage events etc. to plant owners.

With the new Group Division Digital Solutions, Voith will play a vital role in driving the digital transformation. Voith Digital Solutions provides new systems in automation and IT for mechanical and plant engineering in the age of digitisation. 

One of the division’s first projects is the HyGuard Acoustic, an acoustic plant monitoring. The project is being carried out in cooperation with a partner, who operates many hydropower plants worldwide. In this system, microphones of the small boxes regularly record sounds of the plants detect strange sounds and identify them in the cloud. By doing so, the software can analyse for evidence of errors of wear and tear.

At a fundamental level, the trend toward automation in the hydropower sector will increase. There are concepts for autonomous machines which could support the maintenance of plants in remote regions. Likewise, an unlimited number of simulations, which are in development phase, will allow computers to determine the best design for new turbine buckets. The potential of networking could make it possible to link up many tiny hydropower plants at one location in order to minimise any environmental effects.

Voith is now working on developing digital systems using cloud-based solutions. We are integrating mathematical models of how a power plant works with the cloud. This will enable assessment of a machine on the real-time basis and from anywhere. We will also be able to predict the weather and accordingly know how the plant should be run to get the optimum output. 

We are developing solutions that will allow us to assess the condition of equipment such as generators and turbines externally to overcome the complex task of dismantling them, and subsequently re-assembling them. 

We believe that digitisation in engineering will make our customers more flexible, more productive and faster, thus maximising their effectiveness.

Voith has taken CSR initiatives of skill development in Nepal. How do you think the local hydropower plant operators can take advantage of this initiative?
After the devastating 2015 earthquake, Voith has been supporting Nepal not only with donations, but also with the spontaneous help of some of its employees.

Voith donated several machines for training purposes to the Vocational Training Center in Dhading. The Hans Voith Foundation has donated to build the training center and a school in Dhading as well.Our aim is to train Nepali youths at Voith training center and factories in Heidenheim.  We are also looking to establish hydropower specific trainings to our customers in Nepal. 

Besides the financial support, Voith also coordinates with other companies to arrange further support for providing training in Nepal.

Recently Voith completed the milestone of its 150th year anniversary. What are your plans for the next 150 years?
Our goal is to establish long-term partnerships. Over the course of one and half century, we have proven commitment and responsibility in everything we do. We never let our customers down. As a family-owned company, we know that investing in these partnerships and earning the trust of our stakeholders must always be our priority. 

Being a Voithian means constantly aiming to earn trust by promising only what we can reliably deliver in order to build strong and lasting relationships. We have a clear vision for our company for the next 150 years. We will continue to be the technology partner for industrial generations for every market we work and every sector we contribute.

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