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Hydropower faces major challenges and will play a key role in Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050. To meet the demands of the global energy transformation, the industry must be innovative, especially in terms of digitalisation. To tackle these challenges, FMV, HYDRO Exploitation and Alpiq have decided to collaborate with the School of Engineering of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland Valais (HES-SO Valais-Wallis), which has been developing projects in the field of hydropower for several years. This partnership is expected to create the Hydro Alps Lab for application-oriented research and development, which will employ 10 people in the long term. This lab will be equally funded by all partners and the School of Engineering. Third-party funding will also be allocated for the projects (BFE, Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, SNF, Innosuisse, etc.). The contract is valid for 5 years and represents a minimum financial commitment of CHF 2 million for the partners.
The main objective of the laboratory is to develop sustainable, modern energy production from hydropower. The concept will be based on innovative R&D work and development of joint competences in the hydropower field. The results of this work will be incorporated into the training to ensure that it meets the needs of the industry. ‘The students will deal with the practical problems of the industry partners and capitalise on the results of the lab’s research projects. The practical relevance of this project will enhance their employability. At the same time, the industry benefits from the skilled labour needed for its advancement’, states François Seppey, Director of HES-SO Valais-Wallis.
In the first phase, the focus will be on projects in the field of monitoring and improvement of alpine high head power plants and run-of-river hydropower plants. The collaboration will focus on the following topics:
Condition monitoring and analysis of the wear of various power plant components with regard to the planning of maintenance work
Numerical simulation for operating mode optimisation of the hydraulic machines
Digitalisation and integration of machine learning tools to improve power plant performance.
The lab will be managed by a UAS lecturer with support by Lab Leaders at the various partner locations, whose task will be to facilitate exchange of ideas and information between the lab employees and the industrial partners with regard to implementation of the projects. A management committee composed of decision-makers from HYDRO Exploitation, FMV, Alpiq and the School of Engineering will be responsible for defining the strategy, selecting projects and ensuring proper execution.
For Roberto Schmidt, head of the Department of Finance and Energy, this partnership is in line with the energy strategy of the canton of Valais, particularly because of the significant impact of hydropower for value creation in Valais.
Amédée Murisier, Head Hydropower Generation Alpiq