GE’s Power Conversion Technology Drives Innovative ‘Pumped Storage’ Hydropower Project in Portugal

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The FINANCIAL — With more European countries harnessing their hydropower resources to stabilize their transmission grids and support greater alternative energy production, GE Energy’s Power Conversion business announced it will supply its advanced power conversion technology to Voith for the new Frades II pumped-storage hydropower plant.


According to General Electric Company, the facility is being built on the left bank of the Cávado River in the Braga region of northern Portugal.

Frades II is one of six new hydropower plants that Portuguese utility Energias de Portugal (EDP) is building throughout the country. When construction is completed in 2014, the facility will be one of Europe’s most powerful pumped storage power plants and will complement the existing Frades I and Vila Nova facilities.

Demand for pumped-storage plants is increasing due to their flexible energy storage and grid stabilizing capabilities that can help utilities more effectively manage the intermittency of wind energy and other renewable sources.

The variable speed pumps will allow for better grid regulation, which will become increasingly important as Portugal seeks to dramatically increase renewable energy production. The country currently generates about 15 percent of its electricity from wind power but is planning to add another 5.4 gigawatts of wind power capacity in the next 10 years. Portugal is one of Europe's pioneers in the development of renewables. Despite the high power levels, Frades II will still meet all of Portugal’s stringent grid-connection requirements.

Germany-based Voith is supplying two reversible pump turbine sets and electromechanical equipment for the project, which represents the next generation of hydropower facilities. The two-pump turbine sets will feature GE’s variable-speed power conversion technology, making Frades II the first pumped storage power plant in Portugal to use this system. At 420 MVA each in generator mode, the sets also will be the most powerful variable-speed systems in Europe.

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Speed variability of the pump turbines enables continuous control of the hydropower plant's output. Traditionally, operators have controlled pump output in fixed-speed, pumped-storage power plants by activating or deactivating individual machine sets. However, by using GE’s variable-speed drive technology at Frades II, EDP will have greater control over the plant’s turbine performance in pump mode, with each of the pump turbine sets able to handle a wider range of energy for the grid. Also, EDP will achieve higher efficiency levels—especially in partial-load conditions—because the plant’s equipment can be adjusted to meet the grid’s changing requirements.

"With our variable speed drive technology, pumped-storage plant operators are better able to meet the need for peak supplies of power. This capability is essential to the future integration of more renewable energy onto the grid," said Georg Möhlenkamp, senior leader product management of GE Energy’s Power Conversion business. “GE’s variable speed technology is playing a vital role in enabling pumped-storage power plants to have shorter response times and greater flexibility in reacting to changing wind power conditions that can undermine grid reliability. This is just one example of how GE’s energy management solutions are playing an important supporting role in the expansion of renewable energy throughout Europe.”

GE Energy’s Power Conversion business is a leading supplier of equipment for variable-speed pumped-storage power plants in Europe, with the company equipping 14 out of 16 variable-speed pump turbines that have been built or are under construction in the region, including: The Goldisthal pumped-storage power plant in the German federal state of Thuringia: With a total output of 1,060 MW, this facility is Germany's largest pumped storage plant of its kind in Germany. The facility has been operating smoothly since 2002.

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Switzerland: A total of 10 pump turbines at two plants are being equipped with variable speed drives. These systems generate a combined power output of more than 2,000 MW.

GE Energy’s Power Conversion business serves the power generation industry with the most advanced and complex technological solutions for converters, generators, connections and electronics that are specifically designed for hydroelectric, fossil fuel and nuclear power plants.



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