04 Feb 2015

Developing a real-time inflow forecast system for hydropower generation

To help Colbún S.A. (a Chilean utility company)  deal with such heavy rainfall and melting snow in the upper Maule Basin in the Andes Mountains, DHI developed and implemented a real-time inflow forecast system.

Occasionally, heavy rainfall and melting snow from the Andes Mountains generates floods in upstream basins and high inflows into Colbún S.A.’s reservoir located in the Upper Maule Basin. When the reservoir is full, such high inflows may require the release of large quantities of water, which can cause flooding in downstream areas if precautions are not taken. Limited real-time data on the Maule Basin discharge presented a major obstacle to taking such precautions.

In addition, Colbún S.A. relies on snowmelt from October to March to generate power. Snow water availability forecasts are extremely important for deciding the most economical mix of energy from its various production plants. To help Colbún S.A. better prepare for critical flood events and get timely snow accumulation and melting information, we developed a real-time inflow forecast system for the upper Maule Basin. 

Utilising our expertise in the hydrology of the Andes Mountains, we used our MIKE BASIN and MIKE 11 NAM software to simulate the hydrology and hydraulics and flow regulations in the basin. We integrated these models into an automatic real-time forecasting system based on our MIKE Powered by DHI platform. The flexible system produces updated forecasts every hour by combining:
  • available online quantitative weather forecasts and historical data
  • real time information on precipitation, flows, reservoir levels and snow water contents from the basin
Inflow and incoming volume from snowmelt during the coming months are essential parameters for strategic seasonal production planning. By supplying the expected variation in inflows and reservoir volume for the coming year, the system helps optimise the electrical power system – minimising the costs of supplied energy.