Satellite technology for grid optimisation

30.11.2018

Power lines run above and below the ground or also under the sea – hence, the business of the European transmission and distribution system operators (TSOs and DSOs) tends to be ground-based. Sometimes, however, a glimpse into the sky might inspire us to find new approaches to make the European power system even more efficient and reliable in the future.

This is perhaps how representatives of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and the European Distribution System Operators Association (EDSO) have come to the question of how satellite applications can support the European power grid and its evolution. Anyway, together with the European Space Agency (ESA) the two operator organisations have entered on 29 November into a cooperation on the deployment of satellite technology for grid optimisation.

The cooperation will be implemented through ESA’s Business Applications programme, designed to support the development of new services using data from space assets. Satellite applications can support power grids in many areas, e.g. facilities management, two-way communication between smart meters and operators, prediction of consumption or generation peaks, development of Internet-of-Things related services, or the use of virtual power plants.

Nick Appleyard, Head of ESA’s Business Applications Department, highlights the potential of satellite communication for the allocation of renewable energy generation volumes and grid balancing. Laurent Schmitt, Secretary General of ENTSO-E, agrees and sees “opportunities to enhance real-time grid management through using available space technologies”. Mr Schmitt concludes: “This cooperation will identify business cases where both sectors can support each other and deliver benefits for the European consumer.”

ENTSO-E, EDSO and ESA enter into cooperation on the deployment of satellite technology for grid optimisation (picture: ESA)

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> See ENTSO-E press release (html)

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Winter 2018/19: supply largely secured – monitoring required

28.11.2018

Where are congestions most likely to occur? What are the most important risks to the stability of the pan-European electrical transmission system and supply security in the upcoming winter? As every year, the Winter Outlook 2018/2019 – the supply security forecast of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) – tries to answer these and other significant questions as validly as possible in order to provide a reliable risk assessment for the next European electricity winter.

Good news first: The risks to the security of supply in the approaching cold season are moderate and supply is secured under normal conditions. Nevertheless, close monitoring is required in the event of cold spells. ENTSO-E pays particular attention to an area including Belgium, France, northern Italy, central northern Italy and Slovenia, which is partly due to unforeseen and delayed maintenance of production units in Belgium. In particular in January and February, monitoring will be necessary in the event of outages in connection with low wind and solar energy generation.

The Winter Outlook considers a number of factors that are relevant to safety analysis, such as hydro reservoirs, gas supply and changes in generation. This year’s edition reveals that the decline in conventional generation is persisting, while the increase in installed renewable generation capacity is higher than last winter. As usual, ENTSO-E presents the Winter Outlook together with an overview of the events of previous summer, that was characterised by far above-average temperatures, especially in northern and eastern Europe. This led to some local electricity supply disruptions in the Czech Republic, Croatia and Greece.

ENTSO-E has released the Winter Outlook 2018/2019, a consistent analysis of EU-wide risks to supply security

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> See ENTSO-E press release (html)
> Open Winter Outlook 2018/2019 (pdf, 5.23MB)

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Amprion upgrades historic line

26.11.2018

The power line from Reutlingen-Rommelsbach to Herbertingen in the German state of Baden-Württemberg crosses the southwestern ridge of the Swabian Alb on a length of 61km. Dating back to the 1920s, the overhead line operated by Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), is an innovative pioneering achievement in the German transmission grid. Already in the Weimar Republic (the German state from 1918 to 1933), it was used to balance electricity between generation and consumption by connecting the Rhenish mining area with water storage facilities in the Alps.

Now it no longer meets the requirements of the energy present and future. TSCNET shareholder Amprion is therefore dismantling the old line and replacing it with new pylons and conductor ropes. Instead of the current 380 and 220kV circuits, the line will in future be equipped with two 380kV circuits. It will then enable an improved exchange of electrical energy between the wind power generation sites in the north, consumers in the residential and industrial areas, and pumped storage plants in the Alps. The line will thus strengthen regional supply as well as supra-regional transmission and is an important component of the energy transition.

A symbolic cut of the spade on 23 November in Zwiefalten-Sonderbuch on the Swabian Alb marked the official opening of Amprion’s currently largest construction site. Over the next two years, 221 old pylons will be dismantled and 181 new ones will be built. The key figures of the construction project are impressive: The TSO is investing a total of around €85m, and over 11,000 tonnes of steel, thousands of tonnes of concrete foundation and around 1500km of aluminium conductor rope will be used along the route. Due to the significance of the Reutlingen-Herbertingen line for industrial history, four old masts will be preserved as industrial monuments.

Amprion is completely rebuilding the historic Reutlingen-Herbertingen overhead line and improving it for the energy future (picture: Amprion, exemplary picture of line installation work)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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IE2S for smart system consulting

23.11.2018

Whole new challenges for the participants in the energy market arise in the context of intelligent networks, intelligent markets and intelligent products as well as their cross-sector and digital networking in a “Smart System”. TransnetBW, TSCNET shareholder and one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), strives to provide targeted advice to those of its customers, whose business models have undergone massive changes as a result of the transition in energy and mobility.

This is why the TSO from the German state of Baden-Württemberg has teamed up with the global consultancy MHP, a Porsche company which specialises in IT and process consulting in the automotive and manufacturing sectors. Under the brand “Intelligent Energy System Services (IE2S)”, TransnetBW and MHP are bundling their core and specialist competencies to develop customised consulting solutions for the energy and mobility market players. While the TSO incorporates the energy industry specific and process-related knowledge as well as the system view into the cooperation, MHP as digitisation and mobility expert has the experience and consulting competence of almost three thousand employees.

With this collaboration, TransnetBW is taking a first step towards strengthening its service business outside the regulatory sector and is also considering industries that have not yet participated in the electricity market but can contribute to grid stabilisation through smart load management at industrial and commercial locations or through the use of storage facilities in electric vehicles. “The energy industry and the automotive industry are moving closer together. There are many new topics that affect both sectors equally. It is therefore a logical consequence to work even more closely together,” explains Dr. Rainer Pflaum, Member of the TransnetBW Executive Board. The competent project manager at TransnetBW, Dr. Dominique Gross, adds: “With IE2S, we want to pursue a new path and bring our expertise in system responsibility and supply security into the context of increasingly digital, decentralised business models.”

TransnetBW cooperates with the IT and process consulting firm MHP in the IE2S project for smart system consulting (picture: screenshot taken from MHP image film, YouTube)

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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At just the right distance – welcome, Diana, Lukas and Muhammad!

22.11.2018

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone,” says a famous quote from Google CEO Sundar Pichai on corporate diversity. This goes well with TSCNET Services: The people who work for us come from many different countries and cultures. The trio of entrants in the Service Operations unit is a perfect example of this.

Let’s just take Lukas Leitner, the new Junior Operations Manager. The 26-year-old is Austrian, but was born in South American Colombia, lived in Malaysia 18,943km away (yes, the rumour is true: he once met Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher there …) and spent most of his life in Germany and Bavaria respectively. In the past seven years Lukas studied energy technology at the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg and graduated there in October with a “Master of Science” specialising in electrical energy supply. During his studies, he had already worked for Siemens in the EM DG POC (Energy Management / Digital Grid / Protection, Operation & Control) department and had already become familiar with some of the aspects of the work of a Regional Security Coordinator (RSC). He chose TSCNET Services “because the team spirit, the work ethic and the general environment convinced me – and all this has proven to be absolutely true already in the first days”, says Lukas.

27-year-old Diana Yule has also lived on three continents to date. She comes from Colombia and after completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and electronics respectively, worked there for four years in the field of energy efficiency and networks. She has also lived in the United States. There, the sports enthusiast Diana shone as a football player, among other things. “I generally liked team sports better, but after entering professional life it was easier to start running because of the working hours. Today I like it at least enough to run half marathons,” she says. If there’s a call for sport somewhere – she’s there! This also is true for her move to Germany and her start at TSCNET Services: Electricity grids already were her thing, but she finds the European one to be the most interesting. Now she wants to settle in Germany and build her social circle in Munich, while she can deepen and broaden her knowledge in her profession.

The background of the third newcomer to Unit Service Operations, Muhammad Sibghat-Ullah (also simply called Sibghat), is also not so easy to explain. The new Operations Manager comes from Vancouver on the Canadian west coast – 8,338km from Munich. After a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on power System engineering, he also obtained a “Professional Engineer” license in the province of British Columbia, Canada, which certifies him to take professional responsibility for his projects in BC. He has at least six years of experience in power system engineering with specialist knowledge in areas such as load flow analysis, substation planning and design, protection and control planning, design and commissioning as well as project management. In addition, he has an MBA from IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, to make a good start in the European energy industry. “I joined the company three weeks ago and it was a terrific experience so far,” says Sibghat. “Being a relatively new company, I believe TSCNET can present tremendous growth opportunities. I work in a team of fantastic colleagues and every day brings a new learning and social experience. I am finding life in Germany pretty amazing since living and working in Europe had been a dream of mine.”

That’s how we like to leave it: No matter where you come from – TSCNET Services offers excellent working conditions and great perspectives. It’s all about your knowledge, skills, attitude and efforts.

Three new hires at our Busines Unit Service Operations: Lukas Leitner (on the left) and Diana Yule, both Junior Operations Manager, and Muhammad Sibghat-Ullah, Operations Manager

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WindNODE flexibility platform in trial operation

21.11.2018

The energy transition results in a rapidly growing share of volatile electricity volumes from renewable energy generation. The participants in the energy market are thus faced with new and challenging tasks that go beyond the mere safe operation of electricity grids. Optimum capacity utilisation and maximum use of renewable, weather-dependent energy instead of the throttling of sustainable plants are key requirements of today’s market. The TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), meets the new challenges through the systematic use of flexibility.

A single example from 2017 shows the extent of today’s throttling measures: 641GWh of renewable power generation were throttled in the 50Hertz control area for grid stability reasons. In order to use otherwise lost energy, more than 70 partners from all over East Germany are working on the WindNODE project promoted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. A central component of the project is the flexibility platform, a digital procurement system that is designed to reduce the throttling of wind turbines in the event of grid bottlenecks. Via the platform, regional generators, consumers and storage operators offer TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs) flexible use of their facilities. TSOs and DSOs cooperate closely in the project.

The flexibility platform has now gone into test operation after almost two years of developing. The intention is to balance the load distribution of volatile generation quantities and to integrate them optimally into the system. By connecting or disconnecting flexible loads – for example industrial production facilities – the power consumption at appropriate grid nodes is regulated in such a way that bottlenecks and thus the throttling of wind energy are prevented and maximum use of green electricity is facilitated.

Dr. Dirk Biermann, Chief Markets & System Operations Officer at 50Hertz, emphasises the importance of both, more efficient use of the existing grid and grid extension, to achieve the German government’s renewable share targets. “We need to get into Power-to-X applications and the systematic use of flexibility. This is why the WindNODE platform comes at the right time and can help to effectively use regeneratively generated ‘excess electricity’ instead of throttling it.”

The WindNODE flexibility platform for effective use of renewable energy and congestion management in east Germany has been put into trial operation

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> See 50Hertz press release, in German (html)

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New transformer for Laufenburg substation

20.11.2018

The Laufenburg substation in the Swiss canton of Aargau is not only one of the largest substations in Europe connecting the electrical systems of several countries, but also the birthplace of the European integrated network operation: In 1958, the “Star of Laufenburg” was put into operation as the first interconnection of the French, German and Swiss electricity grids. TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid is now upgrading the substation so that it can continue to guarantee regional and supraregional security of supply also in the future. With this upgrade, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) is implementing an important part of its grid modernisation and expansion plan, the so-called “Strategic Grid 2025”.

Already in 2017, the old 220kV outdoor switchgear in Laufenburg was replaced by a gas-insulated unit. The by now outdated transformer from 1966 is currently also being replaced, increasing the transformer capacity of the substation from 600MVA to 800MVA. The new 380/220kV transformer was manufactured in the Siemens plant in Weiz in the eastern part of the Austrian state of Styria and shipped from there to the Rhine port of Muttenz near Basel. The subsequent delivery of all individual parts of the device from the port to Laufenburg took around three weeks. The four poles of the transformer, each weighing about 200 tonnes, were moved individually on a special road transportation unit with twenty axes. At the same time, sixteen trucks brought additional material for the installation of the transformer to Laufenburg.

The new transformer will be installed with concrete walls surrounding each pole providing space for the connections of all poles, of which only three will be in operation simultaneously. Thanks to the installed connections, the reserve pole can be put into operation at short notice. Replacement of an active pole by a reserve pole is planned at five-year intervals, which will significantly increase the transformer’s lifespan. The commissioning of the new equipment is scheduled for mid-2019.

Swissgrid installs new 800MVA transformer at the Laufenburg substation in the canton of Aargau (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid news release (html)
> Watch video of the transport on Swissgrid’s YouTube channel (“Transport eines Giganten”, in German with English subtitles)

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“Mastering the energy transition on a pan-European basis”

19.11.2018

The “THEMEN:magazin” is a German-language medium that reports every two months “on the challenges, opportunities and perspectives of the economy with a focus on energy policy”. In the latest issue (5/2018), readers will also find an interview with Maik Neubauer, one of the two managing directors of TSCNET Services. It followed the Conference on Electricity Security Coordination (ElSeC) 2018 in Brussels, the #PowerCoordinationEurope.

The hot and dry summer of 2018 was a good example of extreme weather conditions that required top performance from transmission system operators, explains Neubauer. Wherever lines fail or threaten to fail, countermeasures must be taken immediately during operation. The interaction between transmission and distribution networks must also function smoothly. TSCNET Services supports these complex processes as a Regional Security Coordinator (RSC).

At the centre is a range of services relating to grid congestion management for transmission system operators (TSOs) to ensure a high level of grid security in Europe against the background of the rapidly growing share of renewable energies within the energy mix. Especially the high generation volatility of PV and wind farms leads to significantly higher demands on the monitoring and management of the European transmission grids.

TSCNET can at any time take advantage of a huge amount of data from almost all European network operators to calculate the network situation in the next hours and days and to identify possible congestions. “We thus act as an early warning system for the identification of potential dangers in the network, continuously evaluate these with our TSO partners and can thus counteract potential blackout situations in Europe in a concerted manner,” summarises Neubauer.

In general, the European high-voltage grid is technically very stable and resilient, but often the limits are reached in the meantime, also because of the slow expansion of the grid. In the coming years, too, secure network operation is still only conceivable with considerable redispatch measures. The electricity from German offshore wind farms in the North or Baltic Seas does not stop at the border. The so-called ‘Clean Energy Package’ also changes the framework conditions throughout Europe. The energy transition is not a German project, but must be mastered on a pan-European basis.

In its current issue, the German-language “THEMEN:magazin” features a detailed interview with Maik Neubauer on TSCNET Services being the “congestion messenger for Europe’s power highways”.

Linkup
> Open “THEMEN:magazin” interview (pdf, 275kb)
> “THEMEN:magazin” website (html)

Questions?
Christoph Meinersmann
TSCNET Services, Communications/PR (external consultant)
E-mail: c.meinersmann@extern-tscnet.eu

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Repairs at the Albulapass as of May 2019

16.11.2018

In the night to Tuesday, 30 October 2018, the hurricane Vaia damaged the power transmission lines of the TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), at the Albula Pass in the canton of Grisons. Four overhead line masts bent or collapsed there. The two affected 380 kV lines Filisur – Robbia and Pradella – Robbia – Sils have since been out of service. The connection from Pradella to Robbia of the 380 kV line Pradella – Robbia – Sils was put back into operation on 31 October. In the meantime, the clearing work on site has been completed with the dismantling of the conductor ropes and the damaged masts with the help of a heavy-duty helicopter. The repair work has now been scheduled for late spring 2019: Repair work on the two defective 380kV lines will start in May next year.

Overall, the repair work on the high-alpine site is estimated to take two to three months. The lines are scheduled to be put back into operation at the end of July 2019. The failure of the two lines will not affect the security of supply in Switzerland or in the affected regions. However, transit capacity to Italy is somewhat limited: The monthly net transfer capacity (NTC) has been reduced by a total of 900MW.

Swissgrid has decided against a provisional solution with emergency masts for various reasons. In particular, safety concerns speak against a temporary solution. The erection of emergency masts in wintery high mountains involves many risks for man and material. In addition, the time window for a repair up to the first large snowfall would presumably be very narrow. After that, the risk of repair and operation increases considerably due to the weather conditions, for example snow and ice load or the increasing danger of avalanches as well as structural engineering conditions. The measures are being taken in close consultation with the Italian grid operator TERNA and other neighbouring TSOs.

Swissgrid announced to repair the damaged transmission lines at the Albula Pass in late spring 2019 (picture by Adrian Michael, Creative Commons, Wikimedia)

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> See Swissgrid news release (html)

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Autonomous drones for digital line maintenance

14.11.2018

The supra-regional Austrian transmission grid is about 3,500km long. This critical infrastructure must be constantly monitored, which can be very demanding, as power lines often run in impassable terrain. In the future, digital solutions will not only determine the control of the entire power system, but also have the potential to facilitate the continuous monitoring of supply lines. This is why the Austrian TSCNET shareholder APG is one of the first transmission system operators (TSOs) in Europe to test autonomous flying drones.

“Operating a power grid is a high-tech business today,” comments Gerhard Christiner, CTO at APG, and continues that the TSO is always searching for technological innovations to continuously improve system safety. Paul Zachoval and Rainer Wagenhofer, project managers for APG’s drone project, explain: “In order to check the APG network for possible damage, our colleagues in the line maintenance team cover a distance every year whose length corresponds to the distance from Vienna to Beijing. The possibilities offered by autonomous flying drones to support this inspection work are enormous.”

After almost six years of development, expectations are high. Some damage to power lines can only be seen from the air and the drones can provide information about current damage even in bad weather and poor visibility. Drones allow shorter inspection intervals and can thus improve security of supply. And finally, they also contribute to the safety of employees, as in many cases it will no longer be necessary to climb the pylons. APG’s recent tests are conducted in cooperation with the Lower Austrian company SmartDigital Concepts (SDC). The SDC flight devices are high-tech drones developed specifically for the requirements of TSOs among others. They are equipped with specialised measuring devices and cameras for the maintenance of infrastructure systems.

APG ist testing autonomous drones for digital line maintenance (picture: screenshot taken from demonstration video)

Linkup
> See APG press release, in German (html)
> Watch APG demonstration video “Fliegende Helfer”, in German (YouTube)

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