Notable Awards 

  Columbia Basin Hydro – RD Smith
Columbia Basin Hydro – R.D. Smith

Ivyland, PA – Columbia Basin Hydropower (formerly Grand Coulee Project Hydroelectric Authority, GCPHA) has awarded a contract to American Governor Company (AGC) to provide equipment, engineering, and site services for the Governor / Hydraulic System Upgrade of the Woodward UG40 Mechanical Governor, Low-Pressure Hydraulic Power Unit (HPU) and Governor Pressure Tank at Russell D. Smith (RD Smith) powerplant. Competitively bid, this award reflected the confidence CBH’s project team had with American Governor’s comprehensive proposal and demonstrated experience with digital governor conversions, as well as AGC’s unique expertise in providing legacy Woodward governor parts and service support. AGC has been providing support for CBH’s legacy mechanical and analog governors at multiple powerplants for over 15 years.

The RD Smith Project is one of five hydroelectric generating sites operated by CBH in central Washington state. The plant is owned by three Columbia Basin Irrigation Districts (Quincy, East, and South) and is located at Mile 22.7 on the Potholes East Canal. The land upon which the powerplant was built is part of the Columbia Basin Project, developed and owned by the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR).

Constructed in the 1930s, the Columbia Basin Project consisted of Grand Coulee Dam, Banks Lake (a human-made storage reservoir for water pumped from the Columbia River) and a network of irrigation canals. The goal – then and now – was to make agriculture possible by providing plentiful irrigation water at low cost. The Columbia Basin is sunny but arid region where agriculture and ranching had been all but impossible due to lack of water: average annual rainfall: 9 inches, compared to the US national average of 38 inches. Following completion of this massive government project, the region was able to support numerous cattle ranches and agriculture operations producing multiple wheat crops each year, as well as the world-famous Cascade hops.

The RD Smith powerplant replaced a large flow control structure in the Potholes East Canal where canal elevation dropped 50 feet. Rather than waste the energy in a pressure-reducing valve, this small hydro plant was constructed. Funded by bonds issued by Seattle City Light, the civil works and powerplant were constructed in the 1980s. It contained a single 6.1MW Kaplan turbine built by the Finnish company Tampella, controlled by a Woodward mechanical governor with an external, cam-operated blade control. The plant has been operated and maintained by the state-licensed GCPHA (now CBH) ever since, providing clean, renewable hydropower while maintaining canal flows during irrigation season.

The Woodward UG-40 is a mechanical governor used for reciprocating engine speed control. It was adapted for hydro control by Woodward in the 1980s in response to the desire for an economical Small Hydro governor system. Belt-driven from the generator shaft, the UG40 offered reliable mechanical governing and Black Start capability. After 40 years of operation, however, the system had become a recurring source of control problems. In particular, the external cam-operated blade control subsystem had become sloppy, resulting in difficulty maintaining the desired canal flow. CBH elected to upgrade the entire system to digital control and replace the one-dimensional cam with a three-dimensional digital cam to optimize turbine efficiency.

CBH had previously upgraded their legacy plant control system to the GE RX3i control platform, so AGC chose the same platform for the new governor controller to simplify integration. AGC project engineers worked with CBH staff to design a standalone governor control system that would utilize Ethernet TCP/IP communications to greatly simplify the interconnection of the governor system with the plant control system. In addition, AGC engineering revised and enhanced the design of the new Hydraulic Power Unit (HPU), compared to the original specification, to provide additional functionality as described below.

The existing low-pressure Woodward HPU is a single pump system with an air-over-oil pressure tank for reserve capacity. AGC designed the new HPU to be a modern dual-pump arrangement with pressure and temperature transmitters – instead of switches – to provide a rich data stream to the governor and plant control systems for logging and trending purposes. The pressure tank, although still serviceable, will be replaced in-kind with a new ASME-certified pressure tank. CBH personnel will install the equipment, that was delivered in December 2019. An AGC Field Service Engineer will commission the unit in Spring 2020.


About American Governor Company
American Governor Company provides fully engineered digital governor conversion systems for hydro plants, including PLC-based digital controls, electro-hydraulic valve manifolds, hydraulic power units, electronic feedback devices and unit/plant control and monitoring systems. Installation, start-up, commissioning and field training services are provided by our staff of experienced governor specialists and field service engineers. American Governor also provides full support for legacy governor systems, including a complete line of replacement parts for all types of Woodward governors and a growing inventory of new and reconditioned parts and assemblies for other OEM governors. American Governor offers Field Service, Training, Retrofit kits and Technical Support for legacy governors. The Training and Repair Facility near Stevens Point WI offers factory repair services for governor pumps and permanent magnet generators as well as our annual Governor School and twice yearly Focus Classes. American Governor has provided more than 600 digital governor upgrades and has supported over 1,500 hydropower plants in North America.

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