The country’s power generating company, Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) proposes establishing a Research and Development Centre (R&D Centre) to keep up with the evolving modern technologies and changing environment in the hydropower sector that is undergoing a huge expansion.
“It would essentially be an investment in future capabilities and sustainability of DGPC and Bhutan’s hydropower sector by developing new competitive advantages at the business, corporate and national levels,” said the Chief of Research Division, Dr Lhendup Namgay. “A very important mandate of DGPC is also to build capacity in the water-to-wire business of hydropower.”
“DGPC has to adapt to the fast evolving technologies in the world,” he said adding, “should DGPC not invest in building competencies and invest in R&D activities, DGPC could become very dependent on external expertise that could have huge financial and technical implications”.
He said that the R&D Centre should eventually enable DGPC to command a strategic advantage over other players in the region, and DGPC would have the advantage of the early start with the fast pace of hydropower development taking place in a country with regard to the rest of the South Asia region.
To wean away from the high dependence on expertise on outside agencies and original equipment manufacturers and to develop its internal capacities, DGPC has established a Centre of Excellence for Control & protection (CoECaP) at Tala Hydropower Plant, Centre of Excellence for Dielectric Material Analysis (CoEDiMA), Centre of Excellence for Gates and Instrumentation and Centre of Excellence for Vibration and Thermography Analysis (CoEVaTA) at Chukha.
“These CoEs are already playing a very important role in the O&M of the existing power plants and in the construction of the new power plants. With the expertise developed within the CoEs and the confidence built, these CoEs are exploring to provide its services beyond DGPC within and outside of Bhutan,” he said.
“Before the establishment of CoEvaTA, the power plants used to avail the services from external experts for vibration monitoring and analysis,” he said. “These experts took at least a week to reach the site and their service charges are very high” he said adding that with the competency developed within CoEVaTA, not only are the service charges much lower, generation losses are drastically reduced with much shorter downtime of the units.
One such input is in using various Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) and analysis of transformer and lubricating oils. CoEs are able to diagnosis malfunction and prevent failure of critical components and systems, thereby ensuring generation and avoiding revenue losses. “DGPC has averted many a catastrophic failure at the DGPC power plants due to the timely monitoring of various critical parameters of the equipment by the CoEs,” he pointed out.
Many contributions made by CoEs relate to periodic monitoring and analysis of the vibration of generating units, providing other specialised services in repairs of critical components of the power plants.
There are other areas of expertise and services that are becoming essential for DGPC for its own power plants, existing as well as for the new developments that ongoing or being planned according to Dr Lhendup Namgay.
For the effective and optimal use of limited resources and for building capacity, it is foreseen that these could be achieved better through a centralized R&D Centre with expanded scope rather than creating more independent CoEs at different power plants.
Dr. Lhendup said the R&D Centre would help create a pool of experts not only to undertake testing and diagnostic jobs that the present CoEs are responsible for but more so to perform applied research that would enable DGPC to innovative new ideas relevant and beneficial to Bhutan’s hydropower sector.
“In the next decades, numerous projects are planned, therefore demand for the highly specialized skills will increase drastically so the existing hydropower plants are also aging and there is a need to monitor the aging equipment through such facilities” he said adding that this might thus be an opportunity to retain some of the investments within the country
The need to upgrade the Centres of Excellence is also pointed out to be one reason for the establishment of R&D center, which is expected to reduce dependency on external expertise and increase internal.
He said that with over 3,600 MW of hydropower projects at various stages of implementation and the government’s vision to add many more in the years to come, DGPC is poised to grow much bigger and with it would have to shoulder huge responsibilities and challenges.
“In preparation of these responsibilities and challenges, and for the long term sustainability of the sector, DGPC continues to focus its efforts strengthening its water-to-wire competencies in highly technical and specialized areas,” Dr. Lhendup said.