Felsenau hydro power plant emphasizes the importance of automation availability

Jan 29, 2019

Hydropower plays an important role in Switzerland’s energy production. Energie Wasser Bern on the Aar River has chosen Valmet’s automation solution to replace its aging system. During the project, Valmet proved to the customer that its specialists are qualified experts with profound skills and competences.


Energie Wasser Bern is one of the largest communal energy companies in Switzerland. The main target of the company is to provide households and businesses with energy and heat. The company is very future-oriented, which can be seen in the investments of its Felsenau hydroelectric power plant.

More than 100 years in operation  – more than 15,000 households to supply

The electricity capacity of the Felsenau hydro power plant is 11.3 MW. The annual production amounts to about 70,000 MWh. This amount of energy supplies approximately 15,500 households in Bern. The ecological production process has an important value for the population of the city that highly appreciates sustainable energy.

Starting in 1909, three turbines have been producing energy for the city Bern. Over the years, the energy consumption has increased steadily. In the 1980s, the entire plant was renewed. A new building with a horizontal compact Kaplan turbine was constructed and linked directly to the existing facility. After its startup, the old power plant was closed except for its bottom outlet.

An automation system must be 100% available

Over the years, the automation system was becoming obsolete. Andres Wäfler, Manager of Power Plants & Contracting at Energie Wasser Bern explains: “Since several electronic components and spare parts from our previous suppliers were no longer available, we were forced to replace the control, protection and some other systems. It proved to be more cost effective to modernize the entire control system in the power plant and the Engehalde dam.“

In a hydroelectric power plant, high requirements are set on the reliability of automation. One reason for this is that the plant is not always occupied with people. Wäfler confirms: “The automation system must be available 100% of the time. These expectations were fulfilled by Valmet.”

Operational effectiveness improved

The new Valmet DNA automation system has brought along a lot of improvements. Especially the effectiveness of the controls has been visibly enhanced. Wäfler states: “The control is now fully automated. With the old system, starting and stopping the equipment was more difficult. Now, all the information is easily and quickly available. The events and context are much more visible.“

The plant is controlled from the main control room in the middle of the city. If some problems appear, the operator on emergency duty will be contacted. In total, six people work with emergency situations. These people have been trained by Valmet. Later, a simulator will be used for training purposes. The operators have accepted the new system quickly and are enthusiastic about the information available.

Among other things, the household water control is very important for the power plant. This is an extremely complex process at the Felsenau power plant, and therefore, difficult to program. The regulations for the residual water control are not so easy to execute. Now when everything is completely controlled with Valmet DNA, this issue is solved.

Project management by professionals

The project was carried out under the guidance of Alpiq/Energie Wasser Bern and Valmet professionals and in close cooperation with some selected subcontractors, such as Emat and Fuchshofer. Typically, large projects consist of several work phases. To reach the best results, all project members have to work as a team and realize the common targets, time schedules and the order of each function. In the Felsenau project, the team was successful in reaching effective collaboration. 

The startup of a replacement project is often demanding and hectic. In this project, the project team members have been flexible and showed profound know-how and competences.

“In my opinion, the cooperation with Valmet and other subcontractors was very easy. If there were any problems during the renovation work, everybody contributed to help and find an optimal solution. Also, our expectations for the adaptations of the overview displays have been realized quickly and without any difficulties. These aspects have given me a very positive image of Valmet,“ says Wäfler, who is very satisfied with the entire project.

Since the project was implemented so well, there are also high expectations for the upcoming service and spare parts deliveries. After all, ecological energy must be supplied to the customers in Bern at all times. And this is where Valmet’s automation plays an important role.


For more information, please contact:

Rupert Kerschbaum

The automation system must be available 100% of the time. These expectations were fulfilled by Valmet.”
Andres Wäfler, Manager of Power Plants & Contracting at Energie Wasser Bern