Penstock flow control in world’s first electric town

AUMA SAV variable speed electric actuators optimise water to flow through the dam system at Blackwater Reservoir near Kinlochleven, Scotland. 
The small town of Kinlochleven has an extraordinary claim to fame as the first place in the world in which every home was connected to electricity. That was courtesy of a 1907 hydroelectric dam project that generated power for the aluminium smelter near the town.
Three auxiliary spillways feeding the power plant were mothballed in the late 1960s. Water flow control specialist Aquatic Control Engineering (ACE) was subsequently tasked with the reinstatement of the spillways, as part of a new drive for local green energy. ACE chose AUMA variable speed electric actuators to drive key penstocks that optimise water flow through the dam system, increasing efficiency and reducing energy requirements.
AUMA SAV variable speed actuators can both start and stop at low speed, increasing speed through the middle part of the actuation cycle. This means that the inrush current as the cycle starts is tiny compared with a high-torque, full-speed start.
The generation plant operates 24/7 and the penstocks are extremely remote, so a relatively simple uninterruptible power supply is used to cover for any loss of power, significantly reducing cabling costs and the overall cost of the project.
The 6 km of the concrete aqueduct and 13 km of steel pipe through which water flows to the hydroelectric station are operated to maintain ‘almost full’ flow through a box culvert at the power station end. In the early days, this was a full-time manual job, with an operator remotely stationed to raise and lower penstocks and keeping them clean. This level of intervention contributed to the plant becoming uneconomic and falling into disrepair, closing in the late 1960s.
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