Trainees at a Swedish hydro power training centre have the unique opportunity of working on an operational 10MW Francis unit. Report by Suzanne Moxon
Located in northern Sweden two small towns called Jokkmokk and Porjus have become synonymous with hydro power. Jokkmokk is home to the Jokkmokk Training Centre (JTC), which was established by the Swedish power utility Vattenfall in 1981. In March 1997 JTC became the world’s first hydro power training centre to utilise a real hydro station, located in nearby Porjus, which enables students to apply their knowledge under practical conditions.
Hydro power has been generated in this part of Sweden along the Lule river since 1910 and today 36 units are in operation, generating 17TWh of electricity a year. Commenting upon the formation of JTC 17 years ago, Lars Lindholm, an electrical engineer at JTC, said; ‘We had accumulated a considerable wealth of knowledge about hydro power and decided that we wanted to pass this on. Our many years of experience within the hydro power field made it seem quite logical that people would view us with interest and respect.
‘JTC is unique as it is, to our knowledge, the only facility with a hydro power plant dedicated to training purposes alone,’ Lindholm added. ‘The main attraction is that students can learn to operate a hydro plant under real conditions without having to give consideration to production and operating demands.’ JTC is a commercial business operation and, although it was initially established with funding from Vattenfall, it now operates on a completely commercial basis. ‘Vattenfall does not pay us a single penny now,’ Lindholm said, ‘We have to survive ourselves.’ A consortium of Vattenfall, ABB and Kværner Turbin own the the training unit utilised by JTC (unit eight), and the centre has to rent the facility from them. Having invested several million pounds in upgrading the unit, the consortium is now reaping the benefits by making use of the training facilities. For example, when ABB sells products to customers it sometimes includes training at JTC as part of a special package.
The 10MW Francis unit which is utilised by JTC at Porjus, has been refurbished with the most up-to-date technological equipment to simulate a power station’s total supervision and control. Training covers transmission equipment, substations and remote control, and hydraulic equipment such as turbine governors and actuators. Generation, flow, power demand and transmission can also be simulated at JTC by computer.
‘We sometimes run the unit for a week at a time to get a fingerprint on its condition,’ Lindholm explained about the operation of unit eight. ‘It enables us to see what is happening with the bearings and winding etc, so we can see how the unit reacts over a long period. We do not receive any money from running the unit, it is purely used for training purposes so that students can gain practical experience. It also helps to create a deeper understanding of the characteristics of the unit.’ The training at JTC is mainly taken up by individuals already working in the hydro power industry and is described as ‘gap analysis’ — JTC fills in the gaps of knowledge between what hydro operators do know and what they should know. The main requirement of training is that students need to learn about new hydro technology, many of them were trained when first starting their jobs several years ago but since then have not been updated on new developments. This is the advantage of utilising unit eight for training as it boasts brand new high-tech equipment.
The training is tailor-made to customer requirements. JTC staff discuss with clients beforehand what they think they want to learn and specific problems they need answers to. The staff then draw up draft proposals for training before finalising details with the client. Training can take place either in-house or at the customer’s own facility and can last from one week to six months. Consulting services are also available.
Training falls under three categories: •Basic operational training — this ensures students have basic knowledge about operating a hydro station in realistic conditions. The main aim is to enable routine jobs to be carried out, starting up and stopping equipment, troubleshooting or simply locating faults and calling in an expert to rectify them.
•Maintenance training — this entails learning maintenance procedures to ensure that the machinery can run for long periods as cheaply as possible. Previously maintenance was carried out periodically at hydro plants, regardless of whether problems were located. Today’s high-tech hydro stations utilise condition monitoring where computerised systems and sensors report on the condition of equipment, enabling operators to respond directly to identified problems or potential problem areas.
•Supplementary training — this covers quality training which focuses on good environmental procedures, such as disposing of old equipment or oil from transformers in an appropriate manner, and safe working procedures.
A recent development for JTC was the introduction of a university qualification, which started in August 1997. ‘This is a big issue for us in Sweden,’ Lindholm said. ‘A lot of people have been asking for this.’ Luleå University of Technology, in conjunction with JTC and the Municipality of Jokkmokk, started the three-year university degree programme which combines hydro power technology, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering. This is descried as the only university engineering degree of its kind in the world and will take pace at JTC.
Other training courses at JTC are accredited by Swedac, a government-owned company which acts as an accreditation institute for technical work. A future plan for JTC is to gain accreditation for the students from the degree course, once they have graduated. It is hoped that this will begin in 2000.
Students who come to JTC for training are attracted from around the world. The facility estimates that about 30% of them come from outside Sweden. Organisations are often enthused about the work JTC does, and asks them for help and advice in setting up their own training centres. JTC, in conjunction with Norwegian company Norconsult, helped to establish the Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre in Zambia for the Southern Africa Development Community. Staff also helped to set up a hydro training centre in Aswan, Egypt.
Students from Sweden include civil defence conscripts who learn about the operation and maintenance of hydro stations, staff from power utilities and hydro engineers, operators and maintenance staff.