The majority of U.S. hydropower plants are more than 50 years old. As the existing hydropower fleet continues to age, it is increasingly challenging to maintain efficient and cost-effective operations and ensure the security of this critical infrastructure. Maintenance, or routine servicing of a system, can maximize the remaining useful life of the asset, but eventually performance degradation or risk of failure will require that a component be refurbished or replaced. Between 2007 and 2017, approximately $9 billion was spent to upgrade and refurbish turbines and generators, and upgrades occur slowly due to the longevity of hydropower assets. In addition, hydropower facilities are diverse, with wide ranges of operational and physical characteristics, and there is limited information available on those differences. Hydropower and pumped storage hydropower plants are also increasingly connected to information technology systems, which heighten cybersecurity risks.
As the fleet ages, it is critical to modernize facilities and incorporate state-of-the-art capabilities into hydropower infrastructure to ensure continued hydropower benefits to the grid. Modernization of electrical, mechanical, and civil systems can improve efficiency and generation, increase system and grid reliability, enable new value propositions, and ensure critical infrastructure security. Through its Fleet Modernization, Maintenance, and Cybersecurity Activity Area, WPTO aims to address these challenges through the following approaches:
- Classify diverse hydropower plants by mechanical and cyber-physical systems and identify exemplary facilities and best practices
- Develop digitalization systems and advanced sensor suites to empower data-driven decisions on operation and maintenance and asset management
- Research advanced technologies and data evaluation approaches to improve equipment longevity and condition-based repair
- Create cybersecurity tools and studies to articulate the cybersecurity target, risk, and recovery landscape.