Dams along the Meuse River are controlled with Telemecanique PLCs. Shown here is one of the hydraulic arms used to raise or lower a gate on one of the narrows.
Dams along the Meuse River are controlled with Telemecanique PLCs. Shown here is one of the hydraulic arms used to raise or lower a gate on one of the narrows.
 
A rack of Telemecanique Premium PLCs control lock and dam activity at one of 15 sites along the river.
A rack of Telemecanique Premium PLCs control lock and dam activity at one of 15 sites along the river.
 
An operator monitors lock position and dam activity at the Laplante site in Namur, Belgium.
An operator monitors lock position and dam activity at the Laplante site in Namur, Belgium.

Controllers from Schneider Electric, France (www.schneider-electric.com), now control locks and dams on the Meuse River that originates in France and runs some 125 km through Belgium to the Netherlands. Over 70 Telemecanique PLCs along with 16 Scada servers sit at 15 sites along the river. Local networks and a WAN spanning all sites communicate over Ethernet. Connections are via private copper and fiber-optic lines.

The controller installations are part of a renovation and upgrade program expected to finish next year. Six of the sites have an attached hydroelectric plant.

Each dam has three to six 20-m-long narrows which control river flow. Comprising the narrows are one bottom gate and a valve actuated by a hydraulic jack, cables, chain, or rack and pinion. Locks are 200 X 25 m.

All installations use an identical controls platform. This scheme greatly simplifies maintenance. Management personnel keep tabs on the system via network connections. Operational data collected from controllers also helps construct a mathematical model of the river to better understand flow and deal with potential problems in the future.

Work on the installations took place under the auspices of southern Belgium's Minister of Equipment and Transportation for the Wallone region. Fabricom GTI, the largest technical contractor in the Benelux countries, handled the technical contracting.

- Miles Budimir