Journal article

Fluid-structure interaction mechanisms leading to dangerous power swings in Francis turbines at full load

Hydropower plants play an important regulatory role in the large scale integration of volatile renewable energy sources into the existing power grid. This duty however requires a continuous extension of their operating range, provoking the emergence of complex flow patterns featuring cavitation inside the turbine runner and the draft tube. When the power output is maximized at full load, self-excited pressure oscillations in the hydraulic system may occur, which translate into significant electrical power swings and thus pose a serious threat to the grid stability as well as to the operational safety of the machine. Today's understanding of the underlying fluid structure interaction mechanisms is incomplete, yet crucial to the development of reliable numerical flow models for stability analysis, and for the design of potential countermeasures. This study therefore reveals how the unsteady flow inside the machine forces periodic mechanical loads onto the runner shaft. For this purpose, the two-phase flow field at the runner exit is investigated by Laser Doppler Velocimetry and high-speed visualizations, which are then compared to the simultaneously measured wall pressure oscillations in the draft tube cone and the mechanical torque on the runner shaft. The results are presented in the form of a comprehensive, mean phase averaged evolution of the relevant hydro-mechanical data over one period of the instability. They show that the flow in the runner, and thus the resulting torque applied to the shaft, is critically altered by a cyclic growth, shedding and complete collapse of cavitation on the suction side of the runner blades. This is accompanied by a significant flow swirl variation in the draft tube cone, governing the characteristic breathing motion of the cavitation vortex rope.


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