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Improved damage detection in Pelton turbines using optimized condition indicators and data-driven techniques

Authors: Weiqiang Zhao, Mònica Egusquiza, Eduard Egusquiza, Aida Estevez, Alexandre Presas, Carme Valero, David Valentín

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The health condition of hydraulic turbines is one of the most critical factors for the operation safety and financial benefits of a hydro power plant. After the massive entrance of intermittent renewable energies, hydropower units have to regulate their output much more frequently for the balancing of the power grid. Under these conditions, the components of the machine have to withstand harsher excitation forces, which are more likely to produce damage and eventual failure in the turbines. To ensure the reliability of these machines, improved condition monitoring techniques are increasingly demanded.

In this article, the feasibility of upgrading condition monitoring of Pelton turbines using novel vibration indicators and data-driven techniques is discussed. The new indicators are selected after performing a detailed analysis of the dynamic behavior of the turbine using numerical models and field measurements. After that, factor analysis is carried out in order to assess which are the most informative indicators and to reduce the dimension of the input data.

For the validation of the proposed method, monitoring data from an actual Pelton turbine that suffered from an important fatigue failure due to a crack propagation on the buckets have been used. The novel condition indicators as well as classical indicators based on the spectrum and harmonics levels have been obtained while the machine was in good operation, during different stages of damage and after repair. All of these have been used to train an artificial neural network model in order to predict the evolution of the crack until failure occurs. The results show that using the improved monitoring methodology enhances the ability to predict the appearance of damage in comparison to typical condition indicators.

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