Meridian Energy and Nightside Test Design have collaborated to develop genassure, a revolutionary automated generator testing system that improves accuracy and cuts plant down-time.
The product was initially developed in-house by Meridian in response to increased testing requirements of the industry participation code. It recognised the high cost - in time and resources - of manual testing services, which often delivered results which were inconsistent or delayed by weeks or months.
The new automated system has now been commercialised by Nightside to turn a cost into a revenue stream for the partners, and improve industry practice.
As well as testing fundamental generator control systems the genassure system is superior to other options in terms of functionality, flexibility and consistency and even allows users to optimise generator performance in real time - a world first. Nightside offered the service commercially for the first time last year.
The partners say genassure changes the game, with benefits including:
- The software encapsulates the best technical knowledge from throughout New Zealand, international testing standards and organisational demands.
- The software is compatible with some of the oldest mechanical governors in the country - Mighty River Power's Kaplan turbines at Karapiro - and the latest digital technology, and can be expanded further in future.
- Testing is standardised for each generator, resulting in more consistent and reliable test results which both the generator owner and the Electricity Authority can rely on.
- Downtime is slashed with an average test taking less than half a day per asset, compared with up to three days for manual tests.
- Test results are provided instantly, allowing for optimisation and re-testing, improving performance and profitability.
- Maintenance or corrective actions can be carried out based on asset condition, rather than by schedule, improving efficiency and reducing likelihood of equipment failure.
- The system can be used by in-house technicians, reducing the need to bring in or develop specialised engineers.
- It is durable and mobile, making it portable and suitable for rugged field work.
Meridian retains the intellectual property in the system and Nightside pays a percentage of product and service sales for its right to use the technology.
To-date, genassure has not only achieved Meridian's compliance demands but has also been employed to test more than 30 generators for Contact Energy and Mighty River Power. The product has been presented to most of New Zealand's major energy providers and is also making excellent inroads within the Australian market.
Investigations are currently underway into the possibility of adapting genassure for testing geothermal, thermal and wind assets. Future expansion could include developing training programmes and user guides, to open up wider opportunities overseas.
In 2011 the Innovation in Electricity Award category was sponsored by Gentrack.