Neoenergia encourages innovation, generating benefits for the energy sector. The company developed an autonomous vessel to measure suspended solid discharges in hydro power plant reservoirs. The need to obtain these data is increasingly important due to erosion and sediment transport issues in rivers. With this, increased accuracy and assurance will be provided to the collection of sediment samples, which is now done manually all over the world. The initiative is part of the Research and Development (R&D) Program, regulated by the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel).
The boat was developed to complement the studies carried out using data obtained from other autonomous vehicle, dedicated to measuring liquid discharge. These surveys are carried out by the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), in partnership with the Institute of Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) and the University of Porto, in Portugal.
Existing measurement methods will depend on the characteristics of each river – current speed, sediment concentration and course size. The new equipment is capable of adapting to different rivers and was developed to collect sediments integrated or occasional in the section, being capable of collecting equal volumes of water vertically, ensuring more accurate samples.
“Our project is leading to the development of state-of-the-art technologies, benefiting the entire segment of hydro power generation with the possibility of more accurate analyses. This vessel is revolutionizing the way solid and liquid discharges are measured, which is essential to determine reservoir conditions," says Neoenergia's Hydraulic Engineering and Operations Superintendent, José Paulo Werberich.
This equipment is even more relevant in the current context of water crisis as, in addition to providing increased reliability in the results for low flows, automation enables a safe recording, irrespective of the river's flow. All data is recorded in the on-board computer and can be transferred to the company's computer system, optimizing performance analysis, filing and consultation of historical data.
The vessel has already arrived in Brazil and was taken to Itapebi hydro power plant (BA), where it will be tested in field measurements, made on a quarterly basis, by determination of a joint resolution by Aneel and the National Water and Basic Sanitation Agency (ANA). After testing, the boat can be used in the other company's hydro generation assets – Baguari (MG), Baixo Iguaçu (PR), Belo Monte (PA), Corumbá (GO), Dardanelos (MT) and Teles Pires (MT/PA).
The boat has its route set by geo-referencing, to collect samples at certain points in the reservoirs. In these places, a sampler coupled to the autonomous vehicle is launched into the water, which can reach a depth of up to 20 meters, designed to always be positioned on the same vertical line of the river's cross section in relation to the vessel, providing increased reliability to the work.
Then, the analysis of the captured material can be done automatically, by using a microscope developed in the same R&D project. This granulometric analysis work - that is, checking the size of suspended particles - allows the assessment of the reservoir conditions, such as silting.
The R&D project that led to the development of the vessel and the microscope started in 2017. In addition to this equipment, other technologies were created, such as the boat developed to measure the flow and water quality. In addition, it enabled the nationalization of a geo-referencing technology with a ten times lower cost than in the market.