“It’s a good sign when the customer and the supplier both have a good feeling from the start.

The close cooperation between VEO and Savon Voima in hydropower plant modernisations and remote control system projects, has continued for more than 30 years. During these years, Juha Räsänen, Savon Voima’s Head of Maintenance, has collaborated with VEO on more than 20 hydropower automation and electrification projects. Räsänen, retiring in the autumn, explains what lies behind the long and successful cooperation.

An incredible amount of water has passed through Savon Voima’s hydropower plants since 1989, when cooperation with VEO began. Juha Räsänen, working as a power plant technician at Savon Voima at the time, was Savon Voima’s project manager in the first hydropower project in VEO’s history, the partial modernisation of the Karjalankoski power plant. Now, more than 30 years later, Räsänen has just witnessed the commissioning of VEO’s and Savon Voima’s latest cooperation project, the complete modernisation of the Maavesi power plant. The modernisation was carried out as a turnkey delivery by VEO, including everything from the turbine and generator to turbine and plant automation, generator excitation and protection, and the addition of a 3 kV generator switchgear.

Smooth and open communication as well as finding common ground already in the planning phase have been the cornerstones of VEO’s and Savon Voima’s cooperation from the very beginning.

“It has been a pleasure to work with VEO. We respect each other and understand each other’s views. Already in the Karjalankoski project, everything was focused around the functionality. It was also important to everyone to ensure the system’s operational continuity. We didn’t want a mishmash of different PLC-systems, but instead use the same Allen-Bradley PLC-system across the board. This has been a successful concept to this day,” says Räsänen.

The Maavesi project, which turned out to be Juha Räsänen’s last project with Savon Voima, is exceptional in that Savon Voima utilised Siemens’ TIA-Portal automation platform for the first time. The great outcome means that that platform will probably be utilised also in the following hydropower project.

Experts and a good team

VEO’s expertise in remote control systems and protection relays was an important reason why the cooperation once began. There was great faith in VEO, and VEO also did well in the price competition. According to Räsänen, the situation has not changed over the years, although new VEO team members have joined along the way.

“VEO still has a great team. The young people act like the previous VEO people. Nowadays, more coding is needed, which of course is related to the development of automation systems.”

A true sign of confidence in VEO was when Savon Voima for its Sälevä power plant chose Generator Commander, a generator excitation, synchronisation and protection device launched by VEO. Sälevä was the first hydropower plant to introduce the device.

“People asked me how I dared testing it. But I did not stress about it; I knew it was going to work,” says Räsänen.

Proper understanding is important

In co-operation with VEO, Räsänen also appreciates the possibility he has had at the beginning of new projects to ask for a lead engineer at VEO who is familiar with Savon Voima’s previous projects. This means it has been easy to discuss the utilisation of previous project solutions.

According to Räsänen, understanding the customer is an important feature for suppliers like VEO. This certainly raise the chances of success.

“It’s a good sign when the customer and the supplier both have a good feeling from the start. Especially in modernisation projects, unpredictable situations may occur. In such situations, you need the ability to compromise. I have always taken a firm and open position if something has called for it. Many thanks to the VEO people who I have worked with, for coping with this outspoken character from Savo”, Räsänen laughs.

Räsänen is also grateful to his employer, Savon Voima. Maintaining hydropower plants has kept him active and in good condition. Räsänen, a keen hobby ice hockey player has even joined VEO’s morning turn at the local hockey arena when visiting Vaasa. In addition to a number of hobbies and cottage life, hydropower plants will surely continue to fascinate him.

“You never know, if retirement starts feeling boring, I may join a project,” Räsänen says with a smile.