Voith is installing an acoustic monitoring system in the 95 MW Budarhals hydropower plant in Iceland to detect turbine noise that deviates from normal conditions and identify potential machine damage mechanism ahead of time. In addition, the continuous analysis of machine data aims to support optimised operation and the intelligent scheduling of maintenance work.

The system is due to go into operation in September 2018.

Using artificial intelligence, the system will complement the monitoring of the power plant and preventive maintenance undertaken by plant staff.

Microphones are being mounted at a number of locations in the power plant and will record all ambient noise. Information will be stored it in the Voith Bluebox for preprocessing. The final data interpretation will be done using a special Voith platform. For calibration purposes, the system records all acoustic signals in an initial learning phase. The data collected is then compared with that of other hydropower plants and the system learns which noises correspond to normal machine behaviour. The system is then capable of immediately recognising deviations from the typical noise pattern. In this case the system sends out a warning and notifies operators.

Between 10 and 15 unknown ambient noise patterns are expected every day in the initial phase, which first have to be analysed manually and documented. The system learns continually and becomes more and more intelligent over time.

To keep the operator’s work to a minimum, Voith is offering a 24/7 service for the pilot project, in which the unknown noise is evaluated by a Voith expert very quickly. If the noise suggests a critical or atypical machine status, the power plant control room is informed immediately.

As the pilot project proceeds, the system should work more and more autonomously and identify more noises. In combination with various KPIs, the data collected is then investigated and analysed for complex correlations by Voith and a team of data analysts. The results are then provided as a regular report to the power plant operator, allowing operation and maintenance to be optimised.

In the future it will be possible to use the noise pattern analysis to advise operators of hydropower plants the ideal time for replacing mechanical components, for example. Maintenance work and forthcoming repairs can therefore be planned more effectively.

The Budarhals facility was officially opened in 2014. It has two Voith-supplied Kaplan turbines with water-filled impellers and generators employing brushless Bluetooth based thyristor-controlled excitation systems.