Insights
The three ladies from the Mur

Three Francis turbines from Voith were in service at Pernegg in Austria for more than 80 years. They became monuments even while they were still in operation. This is a story of three ladies with staying power, who are only just now making way for a new generation.

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Insights
The three ladies from the Mur

Idyllic falls – the Mur river drops 17 meters on its way down the valley. A beautiful place for a hydropower plant.

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Insights
The three ladies from the Mur

The new generation – the state-of-the-art Voith turbines provide a compelling argument based on performance and sheer elegance. They have not yet been given names.

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Insights
The three ladies from the Mur

Team work – Martin Tatzl (left) and Andreas Huterer from Verbund AG discuss the list of tools needed for maintenance work with the supervisor from Voith, Daniel Holzinger.

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Idyllic falls – the Mur river drops 17 meters on its way down the valley. A beautiful place for a hydropower plant.

The three ladies from the Mur

In 1987 the apprentice Andreas Huterer was instructed on how to handle Margot, who was already 60 years old at the time. Margot was one of three Francis turbines manufactured by Voith that the workers at the Pernegg hydropower plant had affectionately christened Eva, Margot and Irmgard. “Mechanics worked by ear,” reminisces Huterer. He, too, learned how to inspect the machines using his hearing. “These turbines can tell how they are feeling by the noises they make.”

Margot – red, round, roomy. A glorious example of a turbine, or, as Huterer puts it, “She’s absolutely awesome.” Nowadays she is on display on the front grounds of the hydropower plant as a technical monument. Originally put into operation in 1927 as one of the three ladies from the Mur, she ran for 600,000 operating hours without faltering. “It was a really strange feeling when she was lifted out of the power plant in 2013,” says Huterer. “Each of them was unique. They all had character.”

Verbund AG operates the Pernegg location. 90 percent of the power generated by Austria’s largest producer of electricity comes from hydropower sources. The turbines at Pernegg provide power for up to 35,000 households. The power plant nestles in the bottom of a valley in Styria, tucked in by gentle hills. Only the imposing Rote Wand rock face dominates the scene. The air carries a hydrophonic symphony composed of roaring, foaming, splashing and dropping water. At this point, the idyllic river Mur drops almost 17 meters down the valley – the perfect location for a hydropower plant.

Andreas Huterer, a technician at the Pernegg hydropower plant, always had time to listen to Irmgard, Eva and Margot. Nowadays, he always needs his laptop to maintain the Voith turbines.

The new generation – the state-of-the-art Voith turbines provide a compelling argument based on performance and sheer elegance. They have not yet been given names.

The modern Kaplan turbines feature a high performance range

Where water drops a long way, mechanics must climb high. Andreas Huterer takes the steps two at a time. The agile mechanic in his mid-forties grew up in the region. He wears his gray overalls from which his mobile phone dangles like a pocket watch. The daily round takes him to the surge tank, access to which is from the top floor. From here, he can look down on the three new units, i.e. the combined turbines and generators supplied and installed by Voith in 2013. The modern Kaplan turbines feature a high performance range, are particularly wellsuited to low heads and, moreover, are of an elegant design. The mechanics are hardly visible. Electronic displays light up in their place. Currently they indicate that one turbine is generating 8.1 MW. Margot was capable of generating slightly more than 6 MW.

His telephone rings. “I’m on my way!” Huterer calls, and, on his way down the stairs, runs into Daniel Holzinger. The Voith manager for assembly operations is visiting to prepare a regular maintenance check for a Voith turbine at another power plant operated by Verbund. As is usual, Holzing and Huterer discuss the tools needed for the job. In their strong local dialect they talk shop about load rings and and M36 high-tensile ring bolts.

Verbund put the power plant back on line in 2013 after three years of refurbishment

The order for the three new units substantiates the excellent relationship that has lasted between the two companies for generations. So says Rupert Emsenhuber, who was in charge of coordinating the installation of the new turbines. “Doing this in the old building was a real technical challenge.” Despite the issues, the installation was completed on schedule because, as Emsenhuber puts it, we all pulled together. “If the customer has a problem, we help. When we have a problem, we address it and benefit from the assistance given by the customer.” Verbund put the power plant back on line in 2013 after three years of refurbishment. Voith completed the project on schedule.

The days in which Andreas Huterer monitored the turbines by ear are now gone. “Without a laptop, we cannot find anything,” he smiles and points to the colorful array of cables in a switching cabinet. “On top of that, turbines nowadays are far too quiet.” Just underneath Huterer a massive steel turbine is rotating at 200 rpm. The load on the foundation is more than 70 tons per square meter and the only sign of all that energy is a slight hum. Nothing shakes, nothing vibrates. Everything is running as it should. The best beginnings, therefore, for the new generation of Voith turbines to gain as much fame as Eva, Margot and Irmgard.

Team work – Martin Tatzl (left) and Andreas Huterer from Verbund AG discuss the list of tools needed for maintenance work with the supervisor from Voith, Daniel Holzinger.

The giant from Xiluodu

Generator Number 8 at the Xiluodu power plant in China induces 855.6 megavolt amperes – one of the most powerful generators in the entire world. 18 of these mega units have successively gone on line at Xiluodu since 2013, making the plant with installed capacity of around 14 gigawatts the third-largest hydropower plant in the world.

Voith constructed three such generators directly on-site. Transportation would have been impossible as the rotor of the generator alone weighs as much as three fully laden Boeing 747s.