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Actuation Test Equipment Co.
3393 Eddie Road
Winnebago, Illinois 61088  
Doug Albright DudleyDevices@Aol.com
(815) 335-1143  

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A brief history of the Index Test Box project                                                    

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Introduction and background information

 WGC 3-D Cam CPU Manual

1975 - Woodward Governor Company introduced a new digital electronic 3-D cam for Kaplan turbine runner blades, replacing the hydromechanical 2-D Cams deployed at that time. USACE supplanted them with their own 3-D Cam controller because Woodward 3-D Cam had a potentiometer feedback on the blade-angle cam. USACE had a policy of never using potentiometers as feedback elements for critical control inputs. Woodward scoffed at this and didn't offer the logical solution of switching to a non-contacting resolver,  RVDT or Rotary Optical Encoder with a significant upcharge. Instead, Woodward's position was, "We're the experts so do it our way. " 

USACE embarked on a DIY project that has arguably led to the Fish Mortality problem, Lawsuit and ongoing spill of ~$350M annualy.

Cannon Dam Index Test

1985-To increase sales of 3-D Cams, integral index-testing was offered to tune-up the unit by optimizing its 3-D Cam profile. The first Index Test Box (ITB) Prototype was initially field tested at Clarence Cannon dam on Mark Twain Lake in Missouri, USA. This test validated the ITB and the Constant Power Method of testing by a direct comparison of test results from the new Index Test Box and the industry standard classical method of index testing. According to a DOE Hydropower Engineer the Results were positive, leading to productionization of the ITB and an offering for public sale. 

Clarence Cannon Constant Power Test

The Constant Power method was used for this test. This test is run "on the governor," with the unit operating normally - as far as the dispatcher and control room can tell. The ITB sends a blade-offset value to the 3-D cam, which pushes the blade above or below the on-cam position while allowing the governor to hold power constant using the gates. This sweeps the gates and blades together along the parabolic-shaped "Constant Power" curves shown at left. Corresponding efficiency curves on a second page locate the peak efficiency blade to gate point.

The prototype ITB Field test at Clarence Cannon Dam was scheduled to run concurrently with the USACE acceptance tests on the two turbines in this newly comissioned Dam and powerplant. Based on the closeness of the ITB and conventional test results, BPA purchased an ITB 6-months later.


1986 Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) in Portland Oregon purchased the first production ITB in 1987 for a "proof of concept" test for potential use in the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) power plant. This test was conducted by DoE at Portland General Electric Bull Run Power House #2 (PGE-PHP-2). Successful test results were reported by engineers from PGE, DoE and Woodward.
Click here: Marmot Dam Multimedia Gallery: Bull Run generator | PGE

Bull Run Data

The Constant Power method was used for this second field test in a DoE "Proof of Concept" test at Bull Run. Success was such that DoE offered to purchase 113 ITBs from Woodward Governor, which would have included new governors and 3-D cams. Total cost of complete FCRPS turbine control system upgrades and ITB installations was estimated >$25-million. USACE HDC declined  this offer, preferring to design and build their own automated index testing device.

1987 Hydro Review Article

1987-Woodward's Index Test Box was introduced in Hydro Review magazine concurrent with the PGE-PHP-2 test. This article reports on the 1985 prototype field-test at Clarence Cannon Dam, describes index testing conventional methods and the new Constant Power method, and explains the new Index Test Box methods and techniques.
United States Patent # 4,794,544 "Method and Apparatus for Automatically Index Testing a Kaplan Turbine" was awarded to protect this new technology. 1990 - USACE made an "automated index test device" after seeing Woodward's ITB in operation. Bonneville Dam Field-test data was forwarded to BPA for analysis.

Patent Plaque

Woodward's hydro division was moved to new facilities in Stevens Point Wisconsin, USA and the ITB project was transferred to other Woodward personnel. The next field-test was unsuccessful and the hydro division faltered, failed and was sold to General Electric. The ITB patent went along with this sale, but the technology it protected was never utilized. The patent expired in 2003 and the ITB technology came into the public sector. Actuation Test Equipment Company was established to develop and market this new technology in 1993, but before any offerings were made, USACE Hydro Design Center (HDC) contacted ATECo to inquire if an updated ITB could be purchased from the inventor(s) listed on the ITB patent.

/McNary Dam

2005 -The original Index Test Box design was updated to  ITBRev-1. Two sole-source solicitations led to USACE purchasing one ITB on a sole-sourced contract for a second "proof of concept" test at McNary Dam on the Columbia River in Umatilla, Oregon. Testing at McNary in December 2005 was ultimately successful, as described in ATECo's test report,  HDC's Memorandum for the Record and  HDC's reports to DOE BPA Hydro Optimization Team (HOT) meetings. All of the Government documents were acquired via FOIA requests.

McNary Data

The Constant Power method was used for this USACE "Proof of Concept" Test at McNary. Test was mostly successful, but low flows were unmeasurable due to extremely noisy Winter-Kennedy signal. A rolling-average filtering algorithm was designed for the ITB signal conditioner that allowed robust signal response while blocking high-frequency noise.

Ice Harbor Dam

2006-A second field test at Ice Harbor Dam was conducted to verify the fixes and that USACE personnel could operate the ITB unassisted. The test was a parallel data collection where USACE's normal data acquisition system was used for the index-test while the Index Test Box was connected in parallel to continuously record SCADA system data streams. 

The ITB data was downloaded and sent to ATECo for analysis.  The test results were sent to USACE HDC for comparison with the official COE data reduction. The comparison and all COE results were withheld from ATECo with no comment as to why.

Ice Harbor Comparison

The comparison was obtained years later via FOIA. It shows good correlation between the reltaive test results from both the ITB and the COE instrumentation. Subsequent FOIA documents from BPA HOT show duplicity by government personnel who attempted to commandeer the ITB technology.
A project to reverse-engineer the ITB was re-named Gate Blade Optimizer was initiated. Success seems dubious at this point. 

Slide 2

The second field-test was reported with a PowerPoint presentation by USACE personnel to the HOT on 3 March 2006. This document was acquired from BPA by FOIA request. The conclusion on the ITB field testing was that ITB test results were; this test was even more successful. FOIA requests to HDC and BPA were necessary to learn that HDC had reported to BPA HOT that the "Results virtually identical to those obtained using COE data acq system," and that ATECo's ITB was "Ready for ‘unattended, automated’ data collection."

2008-A second magazine article to introduce the new Index Test Box currently being offered, highlighting the new Constant Power method and statistical analysis techniques to determine SteadyState conditions. New features include updated computers & software, relying on "lessons-learned" from the experience with the Columbia river field tests as a guide. The instrument configuration is intended for use at index testing and long-term monitoring of turbine performance.
This article is also at IWP&DC Website

2010 FOIA requests to BPA returned a HOT meeting agenda scheduling USACE presenting information about the Gate Blade Optimizer (GBO), a new government funded version of an "automated index testing device."



Aerial-View of Clergue Powerplant

2008-North American Hydro engaged with ATECo to initiate a project to optimize the three Kaplan bulb-units on the St. Mary’s River in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario Canada. This Google Earth aerial view shows the layout of the approach and discharge canal of the power plant setting. Flow and wave dynamics in the approach canal on the left-side present a difficult problem for controlling these turbines and for capturing SteadyState index-test data for efficiency performance evaluation of these turbines.

Water flow is from left-to-right in this view. When setting up the governors at Clergue it was found that the behavior of flow and power was reversed temporarily in that when gates were opened power would decrease. Likewise, closing the gates would increase power temporarily.  Woodward's governor engineer (Dave Kornegay) reasoned that this was caused by the flow and wave dynamics in the approach canal because when the gates are opened, water level drops a few feet which excited a wave that takes 2.5 minutes to get to the inlet of the approach canal at the far left. The reflected wave energy takes another 2.5 minutes to get back to the inlet to the turbines where it sloshes head up temporarily. This wave resonates up and down for over an hour as the wave sloshes up and down the approach canal.

Unlike the aircraft division where governor engineers tuned the gas-turbine engine fuel control dynamics to optimize in-situ governor performance, hydro-turbine governor dynamics were not tuned to optimize operation with the existing flow and wave dynamics at Clergue. Instead, these governors were setup as simple Gate-Shaft Operators that required the operators to open and close the gates very slowly in small increments, wait for power to stabilize and them move the gates again - nudging the units ever closer to the desired power level.  This was acceptable for normal generation where the units would run for hours and hours at the same setting, but it was disastrous for index-testing and optimizing the units.

The typical index-testing procedure is to move the gates or blades, wait 5-minutes for the unit to settle out and then take what was would supposedly be a "steady-state” data point. What was actually happening was the forebay water level was sloshing up to its apogee (highest point) 5-minutes after the gates were opened because it took 5-minutes for the wave to traverse the mile-long approach canal twice. This adds up to 4-feet to the existing forebay reading in response to a large gate-position change. When the gates are moved in the closing direction, the sloshed wave is at its perigee 5-minutes later.


The index-test procedure is to always approach every test point in the increasing gate direction, which means the forebay sloshing is always at its perigee when data points are captured.  This error culminates in a 3-D Cam profile shifted to a lower than documented head that has a detrimental effect on overall turbine operating efficiency.


This problem can be completely avoided by using the Index Test Box Constant Power Method that synchronizes the motions of gates and blades to sweep across the “On-Cam” line to capture the efficiency data points for the existing power level without affecting flow (or power) appreciably.


The ITB testing method is a continuous process that runs in the background rather than a scheduled testing event. The SCADA system and powerplant data logger are programmed and setup to record Forebay, Tailwater, Gate Stroke, Blade Angle, Relative Flow and Generated Power continuously during normal operation of the unit.

, and

data collection method records data 24/7 collects and analysis the data in hours-long blocks, gleaning SteadyState data points from


Excellent instrumentation and data logging equipment that were already present in the power plant facilitated a new  index-testing method. Data collection uses the existing power plant instrumentation during normal operation. A few modifications to the instrumentation and turbine control system made index testing during normal operation easy and economical.  

Data Collection during the index test was hampered by constantly changing water levels and the mile-long approach canal to the powerhouse, the 20-mile long run-of-the-river setting and that the flow is shared with two other hydroelectric power plants at the same dam on the St. Marys River, all of them starting and stopping independent of each other.    

PT Interface Synchronizer
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WGC MOD II Retrofit at Mica Operation Manual

WGC MOD II Retrofit at Mica Design Manual 



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