In this article, we ask expert Gentry Burch, Senior Metrology Engineer at OASIS Alignment Services, to answers some of the questions we often hear from prospects and customers in the hydropower generating industry. Gentry is an authority in the use of 3D metrology instruments and methodologies in hydropower generating plants. If you have additional questions or would like to have a more in-depth discussion, please contact us.  

Where are precision measurement and machine alignment services most often needed in hydropower generating facilities?

The typical area of machine alignment focus for hydro operations is shaft alignment – from generator to turbine. This can include alignment inspections and adjustments of existing equipment, or alignment during larger scale rebuilds and installations. In larger rebuild and installation projects, we inspect the initial position of major components before they are removed and then we realign them to their exact previous location after the new equipment is installed. Additionally, dams and powerhouses can also experience seasonal movements or areas of weakening foundations. Using 3D Metrology tools such as laser trackers, we can monitor these structures for movement and analyze foundation areas to track weakening.

OASIS metrology engineer, Gentry Burch, uses an AT960 laser tracker to gather alignment data at hydro power generating facility.

What are some of the alignment related issues that hydropower plants face?

Hydropower customers typically face issues maintaining the centerline of a unit during maintenance operations where alignment is critical. Using our Leica AT960 laser trackers, we are able to accurately record this data and identify where the centerline is regardless of the state of the unit. Another issue is that shaft misalignment often causes failure or wear on bearings and other components, so it is important to regularly inspect for, and maintain, proper alignment. And, as I mentioned previously, structural issues such as foundational settling or weakening can occur and the capabilities of our laser trackers are ideal for tracking and monitoring structural movement over time.  

What makes laser trackers the ideal metrology tool for use in hydropower facilities?

Laser trackers excel in hydro applications because generally there is no line of site from one end of the unit to the other. Our laser trackers do not require this line of site so we can move around from the generator and then into and out of pits if necessary, and relate all the measurements to a common datum. Laser trackers are also significantly faster and easier than traditional methods such as running tight wires to align the unit. Another of our innovative metrology tools – Leica T-Probes  – allow us to gather precision measurement data in hidden or hard to reach places. Also, because our Leica AT960 laser trackers are made to withstand harsh industrial environments, we know that the precision measurement data being captured in hydropower plants is both highly accurate, reliable and repeatable. 

What are the benefits to hydropower customers of teaming with a metrology partner for the precision measurement and alignment needs?

Customers will often see faster and more accurate alignment of their units, ensuring efficient and optimized performance. This will result in cost savings on projects as well as minimize machine downtime. Additionally, our laser trackers work directly with metrology software solutions, allowing us to create detailed technical reports. These reports provide machine measurement data and drawings that can be used for historical context in the future. 

One customer who saw the benefits firsthand, is Alpine Pacific Utilities. They supplied the following:

“Alpine Pacific Utilities Hydro, LLC hired OASIS Alignment Services to do work on our small hydroelectric plant. Small hydro has its fair share of obstacles and this plant was down due to subtle, yet critical design flaws made by a previous owner. The OASIS team identified the plant’s issues, made recommendations, and coordinated outside experts where needed. Thanks to the OASIS team, we were now back and running full throttle. Not only did the OASIS engineers perform the job well, they worked tirelessly before and after installation, making sure the plant performed the way they thought it should. I have full confidence and trust in the way they conduct their business.”  — Justin Ahmann, P.E., Alpine Pacific Utilities

If you would like additional information on the use of 3D metrology tools such as laser trackers, in hydropower plants, you may be interested in these articles:

Hydro Power Generating Facility Significantly Reduces Downtime

Using Laser Tracker Technology Results in Significant Time Savings During Hydro Power Unit Rebuild 

For more information on how you can benefit from precision measurement, machine alignment, and mechanical services, please contact us today and be sure to subscribe to our resources for regular updates on precision measurement tools and machine alignment methodologies, case studies, technology reviews, and more. 

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