ALBANIA: RED-WHITE-RED "NERVOUS SYSTEM"
It's not only hydroelectric power stations "Made in Austria" that are in high demand. Control and automation systems from the Alpine republic also enjoy a strong reputation in the sector.
Schubert Elektroanlagen from Ober-Grafendorf in Lower Austria, which has been providing electrical equipment for 40 years, is a perfect example of this. One of the newest and yet most prestigious reference projects was recently completed in Albania: Schubert managed the entire control and automationsystem for the important Lapaj cascade hydroelectric power station, fitting it with an efficient "nervous system" that meets the state of the art in hydroelectric technology.
Hardly any other hydroelectric power station in the Balkans has been in the international headlines in the last few years as much as the Lapaj power station. It has become the symbol for the Albanians’ efforts to press ahead with their country's expansion of its own hydropower potential. The conditions could hardly be more favourable. With mountains up to 2,800 meters high and the best precipitation patterns due to its damming position, the south east European country is one of the most promising growth markets in Europe in terms of hydropower. The potential for expansion is estimated to be around 12 TWh and and Albania is thought to have currently developed only around one third of its economically and ecologically usable potential. If you consider that the country continues to import around 50 percent of its electricity from abroad, it is easy to see why the Albanian government under Premier Sali Berisha places such importance on the expansion of hydropower, and thus attracting wealthy investors to the country. Particular attention has been paid the new power station at Lapaj. It is actually a key project. Firstly, it is highly significant as an infrastructure project, since it generates electricity for around 22,000 Albanian families in a region where economic development still lags far behind Central European standards. Secondly, it is the technical centrepiece of a whole chain of cascade hydropower plants to be constructed along the Bushtrica River.
A TRIED-AND-TESTED CONSORTIUM
Not least because of the power station's great significance, the operators, Gjo-Spa Power, did not want to make any compromises when it came to the plant's technical equipment. High demands were placed on the availability, durability and efficiency of the hydropower technology employed. Only the very best quality was considered. Quality which hydropower specialists such as Kossler or Schubert Elektroanlagen are known to guarantee. As a consortium under the leadership of the Lower Austrian turbine manufacturer, the two companies were awarded the contract for the power station's electrical equipment. "For us it meant that we would be providing all the electrical equipment, from various types of measurement sensors to the 24 kV grid feedin, over the period of approximately one year. We received the order in June 2010 the contract, and in June 2012 we completed the project with its commissioning," explains the Power Station Division Manager at Schubert, Ing. Christian Schwarzenbohler.
PREVENTING A "BOTTLE NECK"
What the made the task particularly challenging for the experienced electrical engineering specialists from Ober-Grafendorf was the fact that the power station is to be the hub of the planned chain of power stations. As Schwarzenbohler explains: "The Lapaj power station will be the feed-in point for all the planned power stations. For us, the conceptual challenge was to construct this plant to be suitably robust and reliable. We had to create a situation whereby it would not create a "bottleneck" in terms of the energy supply when it is later connected to the other upstream and downstream plants, and ensure that availability and reliability will remain high. A further important aspect was the SCADAsystem. It had to be programmed and designed so that the cascade can also be controlled, monitored and managed centrally from the Lapaj power plant." A proven turbine control system is used, which is precisely aligned to the optimum points of the turbines’ efficiency curves and also controls the crossover points for the interaction between the two hydroelectric sets. Christian Schwarzenbohler's team have once again demonstrated their competence on this project. They are now able to draw on the enormous amount of experience gleaned from the roughly 400 hydropower projects performed by Schubert Elektroanlagen around the globe over the last 40 years.
FLEXIBILITY BRINGS ADVANTAGES
The equipment installed in the prominent Lapaj power plant by no means represents Schubert Elektroanlagen's début in the south east European country. It is actually the fourth plant it has worked on in Albania, and two more are currently under construction, due to be put into operation later this year. There are several factors behind the electrical engineering and control technology success of the company from Lower Austria in the hydroelectric power station sector. One of them is certainly the flexibility of a company that has advantages in terms of its size when it comes to its internal organisation and pricing structure. Then there is the famous high quality. This stems from the fact that the Schubert electrical engineering solutions are developed entirely in house. "This certainly works in our favour. We manufacture our switchgear here in house, all the way through from the planning stage to execution. And we intend to continue building on this advantage. In the future, using a 3D CAD design system will enable us to plan and execute the switchgear production and electrical installations even faster and more accurately. This will take us yet another step ahead of the competition, and another step closer to our photo credits: Schubert customers," says Christian Schwarzenbohler. With the order for the equipment of the new Lapaj power station, Schubert was able to make full use of all the synergy effects of a broad-based energy technology company. "Because the scope of delivery included all the electrical equipment, we were able to provide everything from a single source. This is great, but on the other hand, it requires the highest level of teamwork from all the departments in our company. To then be able to come up with an overall concept for a major customer, from the smallest sensor to the grid feed-in, also requires reliable project management. And this is else something we place great value on," explains the division manager. In any case, the Lapaj power plant project represents a satisfying conclusion for him. An ambitious project which once again demonstrates the high level of competence of the Austrian hydropower company.