Meet American Hydro
Question and Answer with Alan Roth, President of American Hydro
How did American Hydro get its start? (History of where it began, location, etc.)
American Hydro was founded in York, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1986 by four engineers, Selim Chacour, Dr. William Colwill, John Degnan, and James Nolt, who recognized that the hydropower industry lacked a manufacturer who specialized in the upgrade and rehabilitation of turbines and turbine components. American Hydro was the perfect solution to fill the void.
By introducing the concept of “The Service Company” to the hydropower industry, as well as providing unparalleled upgrades using cutting-edge technology and proprietary computer based design, American Hydro found immediate success in not only resolving complex turbine issues, but in dramatically improving turbine power, efficiency and resistance to cavitation. This success is in no small part due to our original team of engineers who revolutionized the industry with their advanced computer design and analysis software.
Thirty-one years later, American Hydro Corporation employs 255 people in York, Pennsylvania, USA and a service center in Montreal, Canada, where key components for hydroelectric turbines are manufactured and rehabilitated.
Can you provide more details on your business? Who are your customers?
Since 1986, American Hydro has offered custom hydropower solutions and turbine services to North America, Europe, Latin America and select locations throughout the world. Our customers range from independently-owned power producers, investor-owned utilities, public utilities, industrial enterprises and governmental organizations in all cases, American Hydro can help them obtain more power and efficiency from their turbines.
Our customers are important to us. We focus on establishing lasting relationships that extend well beyond the commissioning of hydro turbine units. Not only do we offer whole solutions for their hydropower needs, American Hydro provides expertise in everything from the conceptual design of a project to support of the operation and maintenance of their power station. We also provide knowledgeable after-sales support.
What is the most challenging part of your industry? (Both for AH and its customers?)
From our prospective, globally – the main challenge facing hydropower in the coming years remains the decreasing cost of electricity. Hydropower projects require the mobilization of funds due to the large amount of upfront investment and the required time for project preparation and implementation with no immediate return on investment.
With the trend of lowering demand for electricity and the advanced exploitation of shale gas, especially in North America for example, additional pressure is put on energy prices, and thus, attractive returns on investment in hydro modernization are harder to achieve and result in discretionary projects being held back to a recognizable extent.
Other challenges in hydropower development differ on a global scale, and are often related to country specific energy policies and regulations.
Where are your employees based?
We have two site facilities. Our main headquarters in York, Pennsylvania, USA, is home to 160 employees ranging from accounting to engineering and fabricating to machining. We have an additional service facility in Montreal, Quebec (Canada) which is home to 75 employees. In addition, we have ten Field Service employees who are working throughout North America at various sites from Alabama to British Columbia.
At American Hydro our people are what make us different from our competitors:
Experienced regional sales representatives who provide face-to-face contact and support the development and execution of a project.
A team of experienced engineers who provide creative solutions, utilize cutting-edge software and oversee your equipment as it is manufactured.
A proposal development team that works to understand customer needs and tailor offers, both technically and commercially, to achieve mutual project success.
Project managers who possess a blend of talent, product knowledge, experience and management skills to ensure projects are executed on budget and on time.
Skilled craftsmen who employ modern fabrication techniques and CNC machine tools to ensure the highest quality products and service.
Field service representatives who oversee the installation, maintenance and repair of any of our customers’ hydro needs. From diagnosis of operational issues to installation of complete new units, we are there to help
Is the majority of the work you do on-site in York or at customer sites?
For the first 25 years of the company’s existence, it is safe to say the large majority of work performed by American Hydro was in its workshop in York. With the increasing trend of customers reducing internal expertise and desiring to pass risk to their suppliers, we have seen a growing need for field services.
What kind of work is done in your workshops?
We build some of the best runners for hydraulic turbines, pump turbines and large pumps in the world, as well as offer custom solutions in upgrading and rehabilitating existing units, which significantly improve performance and extend the life of the units.
As “The Service Company,” American Hydro offers a broad range of services to the hydropower industry including, engineering design and analysis, full service turbine modernization and new turbine equipment, field service and testing, field machining, and commissioning.
American Hydro is a leading supplier and installer of large equipment for the hydroelectric industry, specializing in design, engineering, precision CNC manufacture, upgrades and servicing of high performance hydro turbines and pumps.
Focusing primarily on Francis, Kaplan, and propeller-type turbines, and reversible pump-turbines, American Hydro supplies new turbine components, rehabilitation of existing equipment or the complete equipment package required by our customers. Our dedicated team of engineers with comprehensive knowledge of turbine design affords us the ability to approach our customers’ needs with innovative solutions using state-of-the-art technology located in our York, Pennsylvania facility.
When visiting our shop floor, individuals will see new installations of high technology equipment. These tools help us grow our business and shift more manufacturing processes to automatic means. Evidenced here is the continuous development of techniques which improve quality and cut costs. Plasma arc cutting in three dimensions has dramatically reduced machining time. Robotic welding provides high quality fusion in a fraction of the time as performed by hand Fiber optic communications reduce spurious signals to machine tools. Modern shot blasting facilities remove hazardous lead-based paint in a manner which is safe for our employees and for the environment.
The computer driven hot-forming and numerical machining techniques developed by American Hydro engineers have resulted in cost-effective manufacturing to exacting tolerances. From the initial plate cutting to the final shaft fit up and dynamic balancing, American Hydro turbine runners or pump impellers can be manufactured entirely in our shop. We control the schedule and the quality and our customers benefit with a successful project.