Record-setting offshore connection

09.04.2019

The IJmuiden Ver offshore wind farm project in the Dutch sector of the North Sea will be equipped with two onshore connections from 2024 to 2030. TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), has announced to link the 6.1GW of the new offshore wind farms to the Dutch high-voltage grid via two 525kV DC cables with a capacity of 2GW – this will be the highest in the world. As a result of the increased capacity, only two instead of six cables will be required, resulting in lower costs, as well as less space requirements and environmental impact.

A total of four converter stations are required for the DC transmission, which prevents transport losses: two offshore converter platforms for converting the wind-generated AC into DC and two onshore converters for the reconversion. The 2GW connections are possible due to TenneT’s unique experience with HVDC grid connections in Germany, where TenneT will connect offshore wind farms with DC technology on a large scale. The TSO also uses the 525kV high voltage level for NordLink, the new international connection between Germany and Norway, as well as for the German onshore projects SuedLink and SuedOstlink.

TenneT has ambitious offshore plans, since the TSO has been commissioned by the Dutch government to connect a total of 9.6GW offshore capacity, of which 5.6GW will be realised with AC connections and 4GW with innovative DC connections. Together with the offshore wind farms already in operation, the offshore wind energy capacity is expected to reach 10.6GW in the Netherlands in 2030. Because of the considerable total capacity of IJmuiden Ver, the associated onshore connection is a core component of TenneT’s offshore grid development in the Netherlands.

Manon van Beek, CEO of TenneT, comments on the IJmuiden Ver project: “We are making an important contribution to accelerating the energy transition. Based on our experience with innovative technology in Germany, we can now help to realise the Dutch ambitions for the development of offshore wind energy with fewer cables, fewer platforms and less spatial impact and nuisance to the environment, both at sea and on land.”

TenneT connects Dutch offshore wind farm with a record capacity of 2GW (picture: TenneT , artist’s impression)

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> See TenneT press release, in Dutch (html)
> Open artist’s impression video (TenneT, YouTube)

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Research on impacts of underground cabling

04.04.2019

In Germany, it is a political objective to advance the grid expansion by installing underground cables. The Federal Government – and also the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) – hope by this means to increase public acceptance of the high-performance power lines needed to transmit electricity from the windy north of the country to the consumption-intensive south and west. But what the resident population may welcome, unsettles those through whose land the underground routes run, especially owners and cultivators of agricultural land.

The Dutch-German TSCNET shareholder TenneT itself would like to learn more about possible impacts of underground cabling on agriculture, for example in terms of soil physics or groundwater quality. The TSO has thus entered into a research cooperation with the Georg-August-University Göttingen. Together with members of the Departments of Agricultural Soil Science as well as Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, subsection Agribusiness Management, the long-term effects of three-phase underground cables on agricultural land will be investigated over a period of six years. For this purpose, a 2500m² test field for the construction and operation of 380kV underground cables is being set up at the Reinshof test farm near Göttingen in the German state of Lower Saxony.

The research partners hope to draw concrete conclusions from the test results for the construction of extra-high voltage underground cable routes as well as recommendations for recultivation measures. For these purposes, the operation of underground cables is simulated on the test field. Empty conduits are heated through heating tapes so that their thermal characteristics correspond to the power loss of real 380kV three-phase underground cables. In addition, the effects of the construction works are investigated. In this context, it is also of interest how long it takes until the original soil condition is restored.

TenneT is researching the long-term impacts of underground power transmission cables on agricultural land (picture: TenneT)

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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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Swissgrid presents good results despite grid expansion

03.04.2019

The business environment for European energy companies such as the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid is demanding in times of the energy transition and the European market integration. Some political uncertainty factors with regard to networking at European level, the relocation of the company to its new headquarters in the “energy canton” of Aargau, and the revision of the legal framework for the Swiss energy sector were particular challenges for the TSCNET shareholder last year. Nevertheless, the TSO presents solid results at his annual media conference.

An integral element of Swissgrid’s forward-looking infrastructural planning is the “Strategic Grid 2025”. As part of this strategy, Swissgrid began in 2018 with the construction of two important overhead line projects in the cantons of Valais and Aargau. Worth mentioning is the line section at Gäbihübel near Bözberg/Riniken in Aargau, where Switzerland’s first underground cabling on the 380kV voltage level is being implemented. But even with the expansion of its infrastructure, Swissgrid managed to further reduce operating costs thanks to successful efficiency measures.

As far as the key figures are concerned, the company’s net profit rose slightly to CHF65.6m, while earnings before interest and taxes amounted to CHF119.4m, a decrease of 4.4% compared to the previous year. This is attributable to Swissgrid’s consistent reduction of volume and tariff-related timing differences, which led to a decline in invested operating assets. Yves Zumwald, CEO of Swissgrid, comments on the business year in a demanding environment: “Thanks to the consistent implementation of our efficiency measures and the great commitment of our team members, we are able to report a robust result.”

Swissgrid reports solid results in its Annual Report 2018

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> See Swissgrid media release (html)
> Open Annual Report 2018 (pdf, 1.4MB)

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DA/RE enters pilot phase

02.04.2019

Following its launch in June 2018, the Baden-Württemberg grid security initiative “DA/RE” (“DAta exchange/REdispatch”) has entered the pilot phase on 1 April. The DA/RE initiators are TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, the German transmission system operator (TSO) from the state of Baden-Württemberg, and the southwest German distribution system operator (DSO) Netze BW with the support of the State Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector. Meanwhile, several grid and facility operators are involved and actively participating in the pilot phase.

DA/RE responds to the increasing volatility and decentralisation of power generation. By utilising the flexibility potential of decentralised plants from lower grid levels, the entire electricity system is intended to be stabilised. Basically, DA/RE is an IT platform, through which grid operators can obtain information on flexibility potentials and coordinatedly retrieve them. In the trial phase, scheduled to last until the end of September 2019, two essential modules for data exchange and coordination between grid and facility operators are to be tested.

With its wide range of decentralised systems, DA/RE adequately represents the current market for flexibility. “Together we can thus test the processes with different DSOs up to medium voltage level and provide the further course of the project with valuable experience,” explains Florian Gutekunst, DA/RE project manager at TransnetBW.

The DA/RE initiative for grid security initiated by TransnetBW is entering the pilot phase

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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PtG pilot plants on an industrial scale

29.03.2019

Power-to-Gas (PtG) technologies have the potential to compensate for the weather-related volatility of renewable energies. More specifically, PtG can be used to convert sustainable electricity into gas (green hydrogen or methane), so that the gas infrastructure is additionally available for the transport and storage of electricity from renewable sources. The TSCNET shareholder Amprion, one the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), and TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, are taking the next important step towards implementing the two most powerful sector coupling projects currently underway in Germany: “hybridge” and “ELEMENT ONE”.

The respective gas transmission partners of Amprion and TenneT are Open Grid Europe for the “hybridge” project and Gasunie and Thyssengas for ELEMENT ONE. Both PTG plants are to convert up to 100MW of electrical power into gas. Their construction is planned at two different sites in the German federal state of Lower Saxony, each close to wind power generation centres and well-developed gas infrastructure.

The grid operators have submitted the necessary investment applications for both projects on 29 March to the Bundesnetzagentur (German Federal Network Agency). If the Agency gives the green light, ELEMENT ONE will be gradually operational by 2022 and hybridge will be fully functional by 2023. Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, CTO at Amprion, comments on the application, that major PtG projects must now be pushed forward, “if we want to use PtG technology on a large scale in Germany in the 2030s”.

Amprion and TenneT have submitted investment applications for their respective PtG pilot plants hybridge and ELEMENT ONE (picture: Open Grid Europe GmbH)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)
> See TenneT press release, in German (html)
> Visit hybridge website, in German (html)
> Visit ELEMENT ONE website, in German (html)

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EU Parliament approves “Clean Energy Package”

27.03.2019

On 26 March 2019, the Members of the European Parliament adopted four new laws on the EU electricity market, which were agreed informally with EU ministers at the end of 2018. In detail, these are the new Electricity Market Regulation and Electricity Market Directive as well as the Regulations on Risk Preparedness and the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER). This concludes the “Clean Energy for All Europeans Package” (CEP). The agreements now need to be formally approved by the EU ministers and published in the EU Official Journal before they can enter into force.

The overall objective of the CEP is to create a Europe-wide market for electricity that is cleaner, more competitive and more risk-adjusted. One of the more specific targets is to freely distribute at least 70% of trading capacity across borders from 2020 on in order to facilitate trade in renewable energy across EU borders and thus support the efforts to meet the EU’s binding target of 32% renewable energy by 2030 and to fulfil the obligations of the Paris Agreement. The regulation on ACER implies that the Agency will be given more tasks and powers.

The European Parliament adopts the last four CEP regulations (photo of the European Parliament: Leonardo1982/Pixabay)

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“Tremendous potential in self-learning systems”

26.03.2019

The “ZfK”, short for “Zeitung für kommunale Wirtschaft”, stands for the leading medium for municipal utilities as well as supply and disposal companies in Germany. One of the editors, Stephanie Gust, conducted an interview with Maik Neubauer, one of the two managing directors of TSCNET Services, which has now been published with the latest issue under the rubric “Nachgefragt” (“Enquired”).

In addition to the company’s role and tasks in the operation of the European electricity transmission grid, the talk also focuses on the potential of so-called Artificial Intelligence (AI). “At present, AI does not play a major role with us,” Neubauer regrets. Although the Munich-based Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) “works with very complex algorithms and mathematical models to calculate network bottlenecks or available capacities”, but “these systems are not yet self-learning” and do not yet issue reliable forecasts based on empirical values. “Here I see a very high potential for risk analysis in the future – both at the transmission grid level and in the distribution grids,” explains Neubauer. Due to the courtesy of the publishing house, we can offer the entire text (in German) here.

Maik Neubauer interviewed by “ZfK”, the German trade journal on municipal economy

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> Open “ZfK” interview, in German (pdf, 216kb), with kind courtesy of VKU Verlag GmbH, Munich
> Visit “ZfK” webpage (html)

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EC calls for further PCIs

22.03.2019

Under the “Connecting Europe Facility” (CEF) Energy Work Programme, the European Commission (EC) is providing a further €750m to finance Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) in the energy sector, which of course includes electricity and smart grid projects. In addition to the objective of increasing competitiveness, the EC aims to promote pan-European security of supply and sustainable, environment-friendly grid development.

Since 20 March, the EC is calling for proposals for projects focusing, for example, on market integration, interoperability of networks across borders, integration of renewable energies or the elimination of bottlenecks as well as energy isolation. The deadline for project submissions is 13 June 2019, and a virtual information day for all interested parties will be held on 19 April.

In the framework of the CEF programme, the EC calls for proposals for PCIs contributing to the objectives of the European Energy Union (picture: EC-Audiovisual Service / Etienne Ansotte)

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> See EC press release (html, with access to all the relevant documents)

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News from PCI Energy Days

20.03.2019

The PCI Energy Days, organised by the European Commission (EC), offer promoters of European Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) the opportunity to present their projects and exchange experiences on how to build a future-proof and environmentally friendly energy infrastructure with innovative concepts. The inaugural PCI Energy Days took place on 19 and 20 March 2019 in the Belgian capital of Brussels and featured a policy conference as well as an exhibition on the practical implementation of specific PCIs. Among the attendees were the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSOE), the three transmission system operators (TSO) and TSCNET shareholders ELES from Slovenia, HOPS from Croatia and the Dutch-German company TenneT.

ELES took the opportunity to present in cooperation with HOPS the Croatian-Slovenian smart grid project SINCRO.GRID. Coordinated by ELES, SINCRO.GRID comprises in addition to the TSOs also two distribution system operators (DSOs) from both countries. The aim of the cross-border project is to optimise the efficiency of the respective national power transmission systems using advanced technologies and innovative data processing methods.

The Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI), an association of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and TSOs from all over Europe, was also present at the PCI Energy Days to celebrate the signing of the Marine Grid Declaration. The Declaration sets out principles for grid development in the marine environment, such as promoting early mutual communication with stakeholders, adequate protection of the marine environment and knowledge sharing. The RGI members, which include the TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, HOPS, Swissgrid and TenneT, recognise the cooperation between TSO and NGOs as a highly promising approach to building a sustainable marine grid infrastructure. The signatories to the Declaration commit themselves to developing marine projects in accordance with nature conservation principles and early stakeholder involvement. The Marine Grid Declaration builds on the principles previously agreed in RGI’s European Grid Declaration. If you are interested, you can still sign both declarations. In this case, please contact the RGI.

From 19 to 20 March, the inaugural EC PCI Energy Days were held in Brussels, Belgium (picture: RGI)

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> See ELES press release (html)
> See RGI press release (html)
> Open Marine Grid Declaration (pdf, 926,8kB)

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First capacity offers on WindNODE platform

17.03.2019

Today’s energy market, with its ever-increasing share of volatile quantities of electricity from renewable sources, demands optimum capacity utilisation and systematic use of flexibility – already now and even more so in the future. To be well prepared for the challenges ahead, more than 70 partners from all over eastern Germany are working on the WindNODE project, including TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, the German transmission system operator (TSO) responsible for the region. A core component of WindNODE is the flexibility platform, through which regional producers, consumers, and storage operators offer TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs) flexible use of their facilities. This is intended to reduce the throttling of wind turbines in the event of grid bottlenecks.

The WindNODE flexibility platform has been in trial operation since November 2018. On 14 March 2019, capacities were offered and called up for the first time. “This means that the trial operation is now entering the practical phase and we can demonstrate that the integration of numerous producers, storage facilities and consumers in one market environment leads to less throttling of renewables – especially now in a very windy season,” explains Georg Meyer-Braune, project manager WindNODE at 50Hertz. The test phase of the platform will last until summer 2019 and processes will be gradually established at further partners, who will thus become potential suppliers. The platform will then be in continuous operation until the end of the project term in 2020. The aim is to use the dedicated facilities for congestion management also after the completion of the WindNODE project.

The first capacities have been offered and called up on the WindNODE flexibility platform (illustration using a screenshot taken from video “Die WindNODE-Flexibilitätsplattform erklärt”, 50Hertz – YouTube)

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

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