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Control simulator for Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme

Two engineering students from a Melbourne university have designed a control system simulator with Rockwell Automation gear to be used at the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme.

The simulator will provide Snowy Hydro with a sophisticated training and off-line simulation tool based on control system technology provided by Rockwell Automation, and was developed as the students’ final year project.

At the heart of the control system simulator is an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix controller linked to a multitude of virtual and real analogue and digital input and output signals. A motor controlled with an Allen-Bradley PowerFlex variable-speed drive (VSD) is used to simulate turbine rotation, while an Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus human-machine interface (HMI) displays the control system’s standard interface.

An accompanying laptop facilitates simulator configuration and control. Each of the controller, motor/VSD and HMI packages are housed in separate portable enclosures and linked via ControlNet and Ethernet communications networks. Snowy Hydro’s governor control code was also incorporated into the Logix control platform, but remained unchanged.

The students, Elizabeth Fullagar and Luke Cartwright are robotics and mechatronics engineering students at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

According to Snowy Hydro’s manager — controls technology, Darryl Eager, the new control system simulator accurately models Snowy Hydro’s turbine unit control systems, and has exceeded the company’s expectations.

“Originally, the intention was to have the students design and build a control system training tool where ‘close enough is good enough’,” he said.

“In reality, the students have produced a legitimate simulator, which boasts perfect timing and sequencing. It accurately mimics the control systems on site.

“The control system simulator will provide us with unprecedented operational and training flexibility. Not only will it allow us to train operators in a very real control environment, it will also enable us to run control simulations offline. We won’t need to take the turbines offline to run such control simulations now that we have the control system simulator.”

The control system simulator will play a significant role in Snowy Hydro’s Scheme Modernisation Project, which includes the replacement of the Snowy Scheme’s 1960/1970 relay logic controls and analogue gauging, with state-of-the art programmable automation controller (PAC) and HMI technologies.

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