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Finish line in view for the XFLEX Hydro project

One of the most ambitious research and technology projects in the energy sector is entering its last phase, with less than a year to go before completion.

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HEIDENHEIM, 26 SEPTEMBER 2022. One of the most ambitious research and technology projects in the energy sector is entering its last phase, with less than a year to go before completion.

Nineteen organisations forming the XFLEX HYDRO consortium are meeting in Heidenheim, Germany, for three days to review progress and plan activities for the period 2022-2023. The 6th Technical Meeting & General Assembly opened today and will be followed by the project’s General Assembly meeting on 28 September.

“The wealth of knowledge that we are generating and sharing with this project is unparalleled.” Matteo Bianciotto, Project Lead for the International Hydropower Association, said. “It’s nice to see it all come together: hydraulics, mechanics and economics.” Christophe Nicolet, Managing Director for Power Vision Engineering, a consultancy specialised in modelling and simulation for hydropower plants said: “these meetings are a great opportunity to have direct exchanges with other experts on advanced research topics, which often turns into new ideas."

In addition to the sector association and specialist consultancies, project partners include research institutions, equipment manufacturers, and three of the top hydropower operators in Europe.

When it comes to the objectives of the project, Mr Bianciotto explains, “we are all working together to solve the same questions: when and how can we make hydropower plants more flexible?”.

Partners have already welcomed positive results from the project: “we have demonstrated that a certain type of turbine could provide stability services to the power grid without having been initially designed for this.” Barbara Schönborn, simulation engineer at Voith Hydro, an equipment manufacturer, said. “That’s a tremendous source of value for our clients.”

In addition to tests in laboratories and advanced computer simulations, these technological upgrades are also being tested in real life. “What makes this project exceptional is the ability to test innovative technologies at full-scale,” Magdalena Neuhauser, Head of Centre of Competence Hydro Analytics at Andritz Hydro, explains. “The equipment and software are now in place and we are beginning to evaluate and compare different solutions. That’s truly exciting.”

Professor Mario Paolone and Professor François Avellan, who coordinate the project from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL) commented: “We believe that the outcomes of the project will provide significant technical advancements and support the transition towards a massive integration of renewable energy resources in power generation in Europe.”

During the meetings in Germany, participants will discuss the impact of technological upgrades at six power plant sites across Europe, and the decision-making tools that the consortium will develop for hydropower operators.

The next progress meeting is planned for February 2023.