Specialized Services

By Kris Polly

When most people think of hydropower, they think of dams and turbines. Needless to say, those are important, but there are many other elements—both physical and digital—that go into turning flowing water into electricity. This month, we focus on several of those services, including the provision of computerized control systems, specialty machining, and borescope inspection devices. 

In our cover story, we speak with Matthew Roberts, the director of renewable projects at Emerson, about how the company helps hydropower clients replace obsolete control systems—some of them purely mechanical—with modern computer-based controls and software solutions. 

Next, we speak with Mavel Cofounder and Co-owner Jan Šíp about an interesting new low-head project in Tass, Hungary. The dam, located on a channel of the Danube River, can generate hydropower or pump in reverse to control floodwaters. 

We also speak with Rob Adams of Western Machine Works, which fabricates specialized parts for the hydro industry, sometimes reverse-engineering components and generating manufacturing prints for parts manufactured a century ago. 

Duncan White, the director of sales and marketing at ViewTech Borescopes, tells us about his company’s devices, which can inspect and photograph small interior spaces within turbines and other hydro and municipal water–related structures. 

Kamal Gautam, the director of engineering at rPlus Hydro, has a career in hydropower that spans many countries and continents. In 2019, during the isolation caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic, he decided to reconnect with colleagues from the first project he worked on: the Khimti Project in his native Nepal. In our interview, he tells us about the Khimti Forum, the virtual lecture series that resulted, and about his current work at rPlus. 

Next, David Capka of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission updates us on recent developments in the agency’s Owner’s Dam Safety Program. 

Finally, we continue our Half-Century Leaders feature with an interview with Eluid Martinez, the former commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation and state engineer of New Mexico, about the insights he has gleaned from his long years of experience. 

From the systems that control entire fleets of dams to the tiny pieces without which their turbines wouldn’t work, specialty services are indispensable to the hydropower industry. I hope you find this month’s issue interesting and enlightening. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.