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Hydroelectric power plants and sensors: Are they worth the investment?

Hydroelectric power is one of the largest sources of renewable energy. Power generation has shifted to renewable resources as they are reliable and currently contributing to more than half of the worldwide renewable energy generation.

Hydroelectric power is one of the largest sources of renewable energy. Power generation has shifted to renewable resources as they are reliable and currently contributing to more than half of the worldwide renewable energy generation. It started gaining momentum due to the oil shortage that started occurring in the 1970s and the demand continues to increase.

What is a hydroelectric power plant?

In a hydropower plant, water flows through a penstock (pipe) then pushes and turns turbine blades to spin a generator to produce electricity.

What unique challenges do hydropower industries face that temperature sensors help solve?

While the definition above is simplified, it’s important to understand how a hydroelectric power plant works in order to understand the challenges. The core of most hydroelectric power plants is the turbine. As water runs through the penstock on its way from the reservoir to the outflow, it circulates past the turbine runner. The water flow causes the runner blades to rotate, thereby turning the turbine shaft. The turbine shaft subsequently turns the generator shaft, creating electricity.

Turbines are the core of hydroelectricity, and their continuous maintenance and checks help ensure production efficiency. They rotate slowly, at a speed between 75 to 1000 rpm, and are often required to operate at a partial load to meet fluctuating demands. This part load operation can increase the potential for water pressure pulsations, turbulence and cavitation. Runner components are prone to fatigue and damage because of the errant vibration caused by these fluctuations.

To keep the entire plant operating at peak efficiency and safety, engineers need to closely monitor and control a variety of parameters at numerous points.

What are some challenges that sensors help solve?

A hydroelectric power plant undergoes the expected wear and tear of its different parts if it runs over an extended period. For instance, metals are prone to corrosion, unbalanced and misaligned shafts cause vibration wearing out the bearing, and overheating can lead to fires and deformation. There are so many vital components that are affected and essential for operation. Here are some examples:

  • Turbines suffer abrasions from suspended solids.
  • Metals are more prone to corrosion in the watery environment.
  • High pressure, stress cycles, and water hammers often cause fatigue cracking.
  • Partial load operations generate pulsating flows, turbulence, and cavitation.
  • Unbalanced and misaligned shafts cause vibration and wear out bearings.
  • Overheating can lead to deformation, metallurgical failure, and fires.

Installation of sensors, like pressure and temperature sensors, are critical to running a hydroelectric power plant and help engineers know what part of the system should be checked. 

Accurate temperature measurement is essential to the effective operation of both large hydropower plants and small hydropower plants along with pumped storage power plants as well. Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a type of hydroelectric energy storage. PSH is a configuration of two water reservoirs at different elevations that can generate power as water moves down from one reservoir to the other, also known as discharge before passing through a turbine. The system acts similarly to a giant battery, because it can store power and then release it when needed. Pumped storage hydropower could play a key role in integrating variable renewable energy sources on the grid.


Oil and metal temperatures of the bearings in turbines, generators, and other systems need to be monitored with continuous power generation – to identify the hot spots and overheating that can lead to increased wear and tear. RTDs are ideal for measuring temperature in bearings and bushings, oil and water tanks, air tanks, and heat exchangers. RTDs or Resistance Temperature Detectors sensors can be mounted in the thermowell or directly fitted with a spring for easy installation and replacement.


Temperature sensors installed in locations such as in stator slots, air cooler inlet and outlet, water inlet and outlet rotor poles, etc., provide important information on generator condition. To protect against equipment damage and failure, Temp-Pro Stator Slot RTD’s are a critical component in Hydro-generator windings. Dual-element stator RTDs are used in the slots of the stator coil. Most often dual elements are utilized where one of the elements is used as a backup in the infrequent instance that the other element should fail. 

Temp-Pro RTDs are available in multiple configurations, such as Single Element stator winding RTDs, Dual Element stator winding RTDs and Dual Independent Element stator winding RTDs. Depending on your specific application, we offer three element materials, namely copper, platinum and mixed. Other options for our RTDs include rear exit, side exit, custom holes and sizes, electrically conductive coatings, and dual sensors with different elements. 


The sensors can also supply temperature information where it can be trended and correlated with other measurements for a more complete picture of unit health. 


Some Temp-Pro Products, Equipment and Solutions include:

Stator Slot Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTD’s)

Generator Core RTDs

Generator Frame RTDs

Averaging RTDs

Miniature Bearing Sensors

Wire Harness & Cable Assemblies

RTD Extension Cable

Electrical Terminal Box


What types of hydropower companies use your temperature sensors?

As technology advances, so is the demand for Temp-Pro Inc.’s sensors. It is because they are created with the latest technology suited for each hydropower company and continuously modified to fit into the growing industry with increased effectiveness. They range from temperature to pressure measurement sensors and will make your work easier. The demand of retrofitting to aged plants with conventional systems is also increasing. Temp-Pro Inc.’s sensor engineering expertise supports a variety of innovative or “reverse” engineering applications related to temperature sensors. Temp-Pro is ready to support your hydropower engineering needs. 

Key takeaways

  • Power generation systems are prone to wear and tear over a period, and sensors make your work easier in identifying the exact point that needs replacement.
  • Hydropower energy will continue to grow and become an integral part of renewable energy. Therefore, investing in up-to-date sensors will help the plant operate optimally.

In conclusion, Temp-Pro, will offer the latest technology of sensors and support you through installation and decision making. Contact us today and get a customized solution to suit your business needs.

Sales Engineer And Commercial Sales Manager at Temp-Pro | + posts

Neal Messier is a dedicated sales manager at Temp-Pro. With 17+ years of experience working with instrumentation in diverse industrial and process industries particularly power generation, he is passionate about the temperature sensor industry and uses his strong technical background and comprehensive industry knowledge to fulfill client’s temperature sensor needs.

Marketing And Sales Specialist at Temp-Pro | Website | + posts

Nicole Chotain is a passionate marketing and sales specialist in the temperature sensor industry who finds it incredibly fulfilling to be involved in marketing and selling crucial components used in power generation and renewable energy. She takes great joy in creating remarkable campaigns, forging meaningful connections between Temp-Pro and its customers, and driving the growth of the brand.

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