Wind tunnel (Credit: Teresa Travassos)

Innovation is a part of FURNAS. In the 1950s, the Company faced the challenge of building what would then be one of the largest hydroelectric plants in the world and which would later become the name of the company: the FURNAS Hydroelectric Power Plant. This construction was made to support the growing demand of the Brazilian industrial park. In the 70's, FURNAS established innovative solutions to deploy extra-high voltage circuits in alternating and direct current that could transmit the energy generated by the Itaipu Power Plant.

Throughout more than half a century of history, FURNAS has become a benchmark in the Brazilian electrical industry and one of the leading technology investors. The R&D projects regulated by Aneel, in compliance with Laws 9.991/2000 and 10.848/2004, are part of this ever-lasting search for innovative results that enable a constant and sustainable operation.

Nowadays, the company prioritizes discovering and monitoring projects focusing on sustainability and linked to new clean energy generation sources. The company, alongside Aneel and other development agencies, monitors projects and patents that are in accordance with current laws.

However, the main objective is to transform these researches into patented products or services that add a competitive advantage. To achieve this goal, R&D+I ceased to be a consultancy department and became Research, Development and Innovation Management. These changes have given a more strategic approach to innovation to face the challenges of the faced by the energy industry in the past two years.

Between 2015 and 2017, FURNAS registered 10 R&D+I projects to enjoy the use of sustainable natural resources in energy generation and enabled large energy transmissions over long distances in a smaller bandwidth. Ongoing projects include:

Vertical Wind Turbine

The studies seek to prove the capacity of wind generation under low intensity winds (1m/s) in several different situations and the maximum power that each situation can generate. The new technology uses folding and articulated blades that move according to the direction the wind is blowing. The objective is to commercially and technically assess the feasibility of new technologies in different places such as the top of buildings, open areas and even subway tunnels.

The project began with a patented one-meter high prototype, tested in wind tunnels at microgeneration levels around 100 kW. FURNAS currently invests in larger capacity models, which can be applied in mini-generation of up to 1 MW and in large-scale generation starting at 1 MW.

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Process Automation and Integration of New Technologies in Operational Activities

The project establishes the guidelines deploying smart grid technologies in energy generation and transmission areas. Pilot projects will be created based on each analysis, aiming to leverage these technological innovations.

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Electric Buses

The project aims to avoid the emission of CO2, CO, CH4, N2O, NOx, SOx, particulate material and unreacted hydrocarbons by urban public transport systems in metropolitan regions. It involves developing a 100% electric traction system "kit" for new or used urban buses, focusing on increased autonomy. Buses with 100% electric and electric-hybrid traction systems will be tested in real-life situations that will define operation and maintenance procedures.

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Electric Barges

These are prototypes vessels with hybrid electric traction that transport vehicles, passengers and loads at reservoirs located in FURNAS plants. The project also foresees personnel training to operate and maintain the barges. The idea is to use the experience acquired by developing and testing this project to later develop a hybrid electric propulsion "kit" project, installed in conventional diesel vessels of any kind, replacing their engines.

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Preparing the Technical Manual for the Application of Soil Bioengineering Methods to determine the best methodology used according to the condition of the erosive process in a cut slope or HEP river bank. This research project proposes a comparative assessment, improvement and development of innovative soil bioengineering techniques. It has great environmental, social and technological relevance - as well as being an enabler of new technologies - due to the range of erosion control and reforestation methods presented, including the development of 6 (six) products that may will have new materials and be manufactured by the Brazilian industry all over the country.

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Energy Storage

Deploying and testing hydrogen energy storage systems and electrochemical accumulators, combined with solar and hydroelectric sources, in order to determine the level of synergy between solar and hydroelectric sources at a large scale. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass and fuel cells, are constantly growing within the global energy generation industry. Energy storage technologies and systems can compensate for the intermittent pattern of these sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, meet peak-hour demand for power generation, delay investments in generation, transmission and distribution and promote innovations in energy distribution models.

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Risk Analysis

Preparing risk analysis methodology for energy generation and transmission facilities by defining, planning and developing a computer system that seeks to implement and standardize this same methodology. It uses existing concepts for managing projects already developed by FURNAS, resulting in the Risk Matrix, which determines the different risk scenarios for various facilities. The system should also provide an independent module with input and output screens to calculate the stability of dry and wet slopes using a simplified Bishop method (circular collapse surface safety factor) on different types of soil.

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Predictive system of meteorological data based on real simulations of the atmosphere, aiming to assist in the development and application of engineering models, aimed at predicting the performance of wind systems and the stability of hillsides. Joining the basic sciences of engineering (structures, geotechniques and fluid dynamics) with meteorology, the system allows a different approach to problems bigger than usual. It also enables the continuous improvement of analyses and the integration of improved models.

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Study of erosive processes around reservoirs in three HPPs within the FURNAS System, with a diagnosis mapping the risks and susceptibility of soils to erosive processes. It also guides the use of low-cost alternative techniques preventing and recovering from erosion. The objective is to improve quality the quality control processes of ventures (from the design to the operation), environmental gains, reduced preservation costs and extending the lifespan of assets. The search for low-cost technologies that recover dams aims to make routine accessible to works of any scale.

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TIB Network

This research project aims to develop procedures and divulge knowledge of non-destructive tests specific for applications in wind turbine structures and components, which will make it possible to predict the residual life of these equipments and to plan actions to extend their lifespan. This will enable FURNAS, other subsidiary companies of the Eletrobras group and other wind power generators to promote inspections and monitoring of structures and equipment in a more reliable way. The result is safer, continuous, efficient and sustainable wind power generation operations.

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Solar Photovoltaic Generation

The Technical and Commercial Arrangements for Deploying Photovoltaic Solar Generation in the Brazilian Energy Matrix project fostered further developments in engineering, economic analysis and environmental analysis of photovoltaic projects. It also trained a large number of professionals for project development, specification and acquisition of equipment and technical and economic feasibility analysis of photovoltaic plants. The initiative was developed by FURNAS and partners, in accordance with Call n°13/2011 by Aneel.

It also promotes a software development to facilitate the suitability analysis of Brazilian regions suited for this type of plant, exchanging information between international institutions with a wide range of knowledge in this area. The initiative also developed a prototype of a new equipment not yet produced in Brazil, an intelligent junction box that uses innovative techniques from around the world and led to the publication of the book "Usina Fotovoltaica Jaíba Solar - Planejamento e Engenharia". (Source: Management Report)

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