A rather extensive program for improvement of the Swedish hydropower plants is ongoing. The aims are to secure future production and to maintain and further develop an already high dam safety. In connection with earlier work, which dealt with assessment of an existing buttress dam where a non-linear finite element model was applied to determine the cause of the observed cracks. The results showed that the non-linear finite element method is a powerful tool to determine the structural behaviour of large concrete structures. The study in this paper is a continuation of the previous project, aiming at applying the method to other parts of dam structure such as foundation supporting the generator (stator and rotor), rotor spider, turbine shaft, spiral casing, turbine and draft tube.
The hydropower plant, which is studied, was constructed in the early forties. During the inspection, structural damages (cracks) were discovered around some of the stator and rotor spider supports. The cracks were believed to be related to the function of the stator supports and to new patterns of generator operation. In earlier times, the generators ran continuously, while nowadays there are many stops and starts, some times even several times during one day. The purpose of this study is to illuminate the complex stress conditions in the generator foundations of a hydropower plant and to reveal the causes of the stresses and to verify their role in formation of the cracks.
The structural behaviour of a foundation has been analysed taking into account the transient thermal gradients in combination with dead loads and some of the operational loads imposed to the foundation. A three dimensional non-linear finite element model has been applied in order to analyse formation and propagation of the cracks. The analyses showed that based on the assumption made, the concrete foundation cracks mainly on the outside but also near some of the stator supports due to the combination of mechanical and thermal loads. However, the studied loads cannot explain all of the types of damages that can be found in-situ. It is likely that especially the drying shrinkage may be the one of the reasons for the cracks that has been found near the stator supports and especially the rotor spider supports.
It is important from a dam safety perspective to determine the causes of the structural cracks that have been found in-situ and also to evaluate the effect of the reduced stiffness due to cracking, since a reduced structural stiffness can result in larger loads imposed on the structure from the magnetic eccentricity and turbine imperfections or alternatively lead to a fatigue failure of for instance the reinforcement.