Final court confirmation for Salzburg Line

21.10.2020

From the first submission of the project to the Salzburg state government in September 2012 until the approval of the construction of the second section of the Salzburg Line (“Salzburgleitung”) by the court of last instance, the beautiful Austrian state of Salzburg has certainly seen many sunsets. The Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG is now all the more content with the definite legal groundwork for Austria’s most important infrastructure project. Although the legally valid building permit for the Salzburg Line had already been granted by the Austrian Federal Administrative Court in March 2019, there were still final legal details in connection with the project, which the Supreme Administrative Court has now clarified on 20 October 2020, thus confirming the permit.

The new 380kV overhead line will replace the old 220kV line from the 1960s and will be capable of transporting seven times more electricity than the current line. To improve supply security in the city of Salzburg, the first 46-kilometre section of the Salzburg Line from the St. Peter grid node near the German border to the newly constructed Salzburg substation near Elixhausen was already commissioned in January 2011. The second section of the Salzburg Line, from Elixhausen to the Tauern grid node near Kaprun, will now close the western gap in the Austrian “380kV Ring”. This ring-shaped extra-high voltage grid is the backbone of the national electricity supply and crucial for the integration and transmission of renewable energies.

The total length of the new line, which has 449 pylons, is 128 kilometres. However, as old lines will be dismantled when the Salzburg Line is completed and some of them will run jointly on the new line, there will be 229 fewer masts in Salzburg than before. Commissioning of the Salzburg Line is planned for the year 2025, dismantling will be completed by 2026. “With €890m to be invested, the Salzburg Line is by far the most important investment project in the Austrian electricity infrastructure. Of the approx. €350m that APG is investing in the expansion of the electricity grids this year, the Salzburg Line alone has a share of €125m for the domestic economy,” comments Gerhard Christiner, CTO of the Austrian TSCNET shareholder, who also praised the day of the court ruling as a “good day for the energy transition and for the secure supply of electricity in Salzburg and Austria”.

The Austrian Supreme Administrative Court has definitively confirmed the construction permit for the 380kV Salzburg Line of APG (picture: Martin Lugger / APG)

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> See APG press release, in German (html)

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Combined Grid Solution inaugurated

20.10.2020

On 20 October, the world’s first hybrid offshore interconnector was ceremoniously put into operation: the Danish-German Combined Grid Solution (CGS). This interconnector in the Baltic Sea links the transmission grids of two countries via national offshore wind farm grid connections. For this purpose, two submarine cables with a length of merely 25 kilometres and a capacity of approx. 200MW each were laid between the offshore transformer platforms of the German wind farm Baltic 2 and the Kriegers Flak wind farm in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea, which is currently under construction. The CGS – a joint project of TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), and TSCNET customer Energinet, the TSO from Denmark – thus not only connects the platforms with each other but also the existing onshore connections of the wind farms. This allows the transmission of offshore wind power to Denmark or Germany and also cross-border electricity trading.

The official opening ceremony, which took place on site in the German capital of Berlin as well as digitally, was attended by Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Dan Jørgensen, the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, as well as Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy. With their appearance, these high-ranking political representatives acknowledged the CGS as a technical innovation with model character for future offshore power grids. The hybrid nature of CGS is that it is the first electricity interconnector between two countries, that not only provides capacity for electricity trading, but also transports offshore wind energy onshore – in both directions. The costs of the binational EU-funded project amount to around €300m.

A technical obstacle had to be solved in the realisation of CGS: Because the transmission grids in eastern Denmark and Germany do not operate synchronously, it was necessary to install a back-to-back converter at the 50Hertz substation in Bentwisch near the port city of Rostock in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The device converts the incoming AC into DC and immediately back. Only in this way is it possible for electricity to flow smoothly from Denmark to Germany and vice versa. But CGS has not only hardware but also software components. The central digital control unit of the system is the Master Controller for Interconnector Operation (MIO), located in the 50Hertz control centre near Berlin. The MIO balances market requirements with offshore electricity production, which depends on wind conditions in the Baltic Sea. Its main function is to ensure optimum use of the CGS while preventing any overload of the line and the operating facilities in the substation.

Stefan Kapferer, CEO of 50Hertz, commented at the inauguration: “With this project, 50Hertz and Energinet are pioneering the efficient integration of offshore wind farms into the cross-border European electricity market. It offers us several effective options to balance the frequency and voltage of our transmission grids at all times, to deal with the integration of renewable energy sources with more flexibility and to increase the stability of the overall system.” Thomas Egebo, CEO of Energinet, added: “The CGS is not only a very important milestone in reaching Denmark’s ambitious goal of a 100 percent green power system in 2030. The groundbreaking project also delivers an important building block for decarbonising the rest of the society.”

The Danish-German Combined Grid Solution has been ceremoniously put into operation (illustration uses photos of 50Hertz, one of which shows Minister Altmeier)

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> See 50Hertz press release (html)
> See Energinet news release (html)
> Watch CGS inauguration film (YouTube)

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Great run instead of beer fest fun

19.10.2020

The almost worldwide Corona pandemic has brought great turmoil to all our lives. Even those who were spared from infection or even Covid-19 disease experienced a number of restrictions. But besides home schooling and home office, there were also some positive aspects. For example, many people discovered jogging for themselves – to keep fit and as a balance to computer work. We at TSCNET are happy to support this! As a little replacement for the world-famous Oktoberfest – the world’ s largest festival had to be cancelled this year for the first time since the end of World War II – we invited people to participate in the “Oktoberfest Run” with “VirtualRunners” at the beginning of October.

Our employees could choose to run a 5 or 10 km long course, from any location they wanted. Everyone ran for himself – in true “social distancing” – but in a real competition. The runs were documented together with the time – and a lot came together: Besides runs along the Isar or through the huge English Garden in the city centre, others chose the Olympic Park or the Nymphenburg Palace Park. All in all no real substitute for the “Wiesn”, but either way a good idea. In the next few days, all participants will receive their medal – perhaps this will spur them on for the next run. Good luck, good legs!

Many employees of TSCNET Services took part in a special “Oktoberfest Run 2020”

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> See Oktoberfest at Wikipedia (html)

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Construction start of Slovenian-Hungarian interconnector

16.10.2020

A glance at the guest list of the official ceremony for the start of construction of the Cirkovce-Pince overhead line reveals that a major project has been launched here. The Slovenian transmission system operator (TSO) ELES had the honour to welcome both the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban to the opening event for the new construction. And indeed, the project is of historic proportions, as the 400kV AC line, a good 80 kilometres long, will be the first interconnector between the Slovenian and Hungarian transmission systems.

The double circuit line with 264 pylons will increase the operational reliability of the Slovenian transmission system and import transmission capacity, facilitate access to energy sources from the North and East, and allow for the integration of larger amounts of renewable energy from the whole region into the grid. The line runs from the Cirkovce substation in the northeastern Slovenian region of Lower Styria to the border settlement of Pince, which is not only on the Hungarian border, but also in the triangle of Slovenia, Croatia, and Hungary. Therefore, in addition to the substation of the Hungarian TSO MAVIR in Hévíz in Zala County, the substation of the Croatian TSO HOPS in Žerjavinec near Zagreb can also be connected to the new line, truly a European Project of Common Interest (PCI). The power line will thus even interconnect three countries. The presence of Gordan Grlić-Radman, Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, confirmed the trinational dimension of the Cirkovce-Pince line.

At the ceremony with symbolic unveiling of the construction panel, Aleksander Mervar, CEO of ELES, illustrated the supraregional significance of the power line: “This project is of great importance not only for Slovenia but also for the wider region and Europe. That is why this project was included on the list of Projects of Common Interests in 2015, while in 2019 we managed to acquire €50m funds.” Mr Mervar also explained that the project, which includes major upgrades of switchgears in Cirkovce, is the largest investment in transmission infrastructure in the history of ELES, totalling some €150m. Finally, he emphasised the good cooperation of the three TSCNET shareholders ELES, HOPS, and MAVIR: “Without this cooperation, this project would surely not be happening today.”

ELES has started construction of the Cirkovce-Pince 400kV line, which will connect the transmission grids of Slovenia, Hungary, and Croatia (picture: ELES; from right to left: Gordan Grlić-Radman, Viktor Orban, Janez Janša; second from left: Aleksander Mervar)

Linkup
> See ELES press release (html)
> Visit project website (html)

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Improving biodiversity for submarine cabling

15.10.2020

Looking at the big picture – the energy transition and the achievement of the European climate targets – there is no alternative to expanding offshore capacity for the generation and transmission of North Sea wind power. For that reason, both the Dutch and German governments have set ambitious targets for offshore expansion, which the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is gradually implementing and has even exceeded for its German North Sea control area. In the individual case, however, each offshore construction and operational measure obviously has an impact on the valuable North Sea and Wadden Sea ecosystems. As TenneT strives to apply and monitor nature-friendly solutions in all of its offshore grid projects, the TSO is now conducting pilot tests with stone coverings of submarine cable intersections.

When the TSCNET shareholder lays submarine cables, e.g. currently for the high-voltage connection of the Hollandse Kust (zuid) wind region, the cables sometimes cross with existing oil and gas pipelines. In such cases, the cables protrude above the seabed and are usually covered with a layer of granite to protect them. To replace granite with alternative solutions that promote biodiversity, TenneT has launched a pilot project in collaboration with the offshore specialist company Van Oord. In this project, different types of stones are deposited at cable crossings to investigate which of these stimulates biodiversity best. In total, the pilot involves twelve locations in the North Sea. In the case of the first six, recently laid submarine cables already cross existing oil and gas pipelines. Another six intersections will follow during the construction of the Hollandse Kust (Zuid) connection in 2021.

On 14 October, the different stones were loaded onto Van Oord’s special vessel to be placed at the cable intersections in the coming weeks. Among them are small calciferous stones from a marble quarry, which are placed at three of the six cable intersections. Comparison with the other three intersections without calciferous stones will allow to assess the difference in the type of marine life developing at these intersections. “Our expectation is that the calciferous stones will ensure that various benthic species will find it easier to nest here and that a different habitat will emerge at these sites. Over the years, ‛artificial reefs’ can emerge at these sites in the North Sea, where plants and small creatures can settle,” explains Saskia Jaarsma, Head Offshore Developments and Large Projects Offshore at TenneT.

TenneT has launched a pilot project to promote biodiversity at submarine cable intersections (picture: Van Oord)

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> See TenneT press release (html)

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Line maintenance under extra high voltage

14.10.2020

For the maintenance of extra-high voltage overhead lines, transmission system operators (TSOs) normally have to shut down the line in question. This practice is more than understandable in view of occupational safety. On the other hand, it also reduces transmission capacity and increases the workload of the staff in the TSO’s network control centre who are in charge of coordinating the shutdown. An ideal solution must thus take both into account: first and foremost, the protection of employees and then the best possible utilisation of the facilities.

The Swiss TSO and TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid has carried out a pilot test on the 380kV line Chamoson-Romanel near Lausanne. At the beginning of October, just a few hundred metres from the Romanel substation and in the landing corridor of Lausanne-Blécherette airport, an orange signal ball was installed on the ground wire of the line, which had not been switched off beforehand. Swissgrid drew on the expertise and technology of Airtelis, a subsidiary of the French TSO RTE. Since the 1980s, Airtelis has been working on methods and technologies that allow maintenance work on extra-high voltage lines to be carried out safely and without switching off the power.

An Airtelis/RTE team of around 15 specialists travelled to the western Swiss canton of Vaud. An RTE helicopter also arrived on site, adapted to the work under voltage and equipped with various mirrors and an on-board camera. A special nacelle was attached to the helicopter with insulating anti-rotation ropes. Two Airtelis team members climbed into the nacelle to install the signal ball during the flight. They wore a suit specially designed for work under voltage, which protects its wearer like a Faraday cage. The installation work was carried out exactly as planned and was safely completed after 30 minutes. Swissgrid will now analyse the experience gained from this pilot project, in which the first maintenance work under voltage was carried out in Switzerland, and assess whether this technology should be used generally in future.

Swissgrid has carried out a test on the maintenance of high-voltage overhead lines without disconnecting them from the grid (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid blog entry (html)

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ENTSO-E: Conference on the “System of Systems”

12.10.2020

Today the webinar or rather web conference series of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) under the motto “Vision for the future of the power system” started. The online events with panel discussions focus on the upcoming challenges and opportunities for the European energy system up to 2030 – how can we best contribute to climate neutrality by 2050, how can we put the customer first, and how can we increase the flexibility of the transmission system? The series was kicked off by the two-hour video conference “ENTSO-E’s Vision 2030: major trends and developments”. The core message was clear and ultimately resonated through all the contributions: “We need a multi-layer, multi-player, cross-sector and cross-border coordination, cooperation and integration.”

The first webinar of the series started with an introductory speech by Laurent Schmitt, Secretary General of ENTSO-E. Among the other contributors were Joachim Balke, Head of Unit for Infrastructure and Regional Cooperation in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Energy, and Morten Petersen, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. Both high-ranking representatives of European energy policy gave keynote speeches. Mr Balke reported on “The Green Deal: Pathways to deliver on the European long-term ambitions”. He stressed the possible synergies and said that we would only be able to achieve our goals if we stopped hesitating and started now. Mr Petersen spoke about “Key milestones on the path to climate neutrality by 2050 and delivering the Green Deal”.

Radical changes ahead
The issues addressed in the other individual presentations related to the ENTSO-E visions of the energy future and dealt with project scenarios in the network development plans, system needs, and the main trends in the energy system identified by ENTSO-E. Dimitrios Chaniotis, Chair of the System Development Committee of ENTSO-E, also described the enormous savings potential for Europe, but also the “significant uptake of HVDC transmission” through the offshore development. Timothée Decroix, Chair of the Policy & Communication Expert Group of ENTSO-E, explained the close linkage between System Operations and Market Design. The system change would be more radical than most people were aware of today. Power transmission grids were of crucial importance, but they could not solve the major tasks ahead on their own.

Damian Cortinas, Vision 2030 Project Leader at ENTSO-E, then came to a kind of conclusion: a “System of Systems” had to be established jointly, in which the Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) such as TSCNET Services were developed into Regional Coordination Centres (RCCs). The success of this system on would depend on four factors in particular: “resilience, forecasts, automation and artificial intelligence”.

Three stakeholder representatives brought various additional aspects to the discussion: Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe (Climate Action Network), Monique Goyens, Director General of the European consumer organisation BEUC, and Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Secretary General of the industry association Hydrogen Europe. The open discussion that followed, with well over 20 contributions, was also very lively and highlighted many vastly different aspects. By the way, five more ENTSO-E webinars are scheduled in the next two days – it’s worth taking part.

ENTSO-E is hosting a webinar on the future development of the European power system

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> Open ENTSO-E webinar series webpage (html)

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Aviation history for grid maintenance

09.10.2020

The Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG, the Austrian IT company SmartDigital, and Austro Control, the Austrian air traffic control authority, jointly carried out the first civilian test flight in which an unmanned drone completed a long-range flight of over 100 kilometres. The maiden flight indicates in which areas of the economy drones can be usefully employed.

However, the TSCNET shareholder did not only carry out the flight to explore the technical possibilities of drone flight, but rather to demonstrate potential applications for monitoring the electricity infrastructure. After all, secure power supply is one of the most important foundations of contemporary society, making it so important that the hardware and software of this infrastructure is fully efficient and intact. To ensure this, it must be regularly monitored. In future, overhead line inspection flights could be performed by unmanned drones, especially in weather conditions where conventional helicopter flights are not possible, e.g. at night or in fog.

After an intensive preparation phase and a comprehensive risk assessment, Austro Control granted permission for this first civilian long-range drone flight without visual contact. The drone surveyed the 380kV line leading from the South-East substation in Vienna to Burgenland, more precisely the section from Vienna to Rotenturm an der Pinka. Gerhard Christiner, CTO of APG, comments: “This pilot project shows how we will be able to inspect lines even better in future, for example in the event of disruptions. This will allow us to find and eliminate malfunctions more quickly. This is an important contribution to security of supply and saves costs.”

Thomas Karall, CFO of APG, adds: “On high and extra-high voltage lines, failures, which we cannot clearly assign, occur time and again. A short-term inspection by means of drone flight would be of great help to us here, because it is often only a matter of verifying whether everything works properly after a short power interruption of a line has occurred.” However, many test flights and legal regulations are still needed before this vision can become reality. In the near future, APG intends to further develop its know-how and use the latest technical possibilities for inspections.

APG has successfully completed the first unmanned drone flight over a 100-kilometre power line (picture: Carolina Burger / APG)

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> See APG press release, in German (html)

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Huge Schnabel car for Amprion

08.10.2020

The grid expansion, that is necessary to create a sustainable energy future, entails many tasks for transmission system operators (TSOs), like planning procedures, overhead line construction, underground cable laying, upgrading and new construction of substations – and also, increasingly often, the transport of heavyweight transformers. To be able to carry out such transports in a plannable, flexible, and reliable manner and exactly at the time when it is needed for the implementation of important projects, the German TSO Amprion has now put its own Schnabel car into service. A Schnabel car is a special type of rail freight car designed to transport heavy and oversized loads. The load is suspended between the two ends of the Schnabel car by lifting arms to distribute the weight of the load evenly over many axles.

Amprion’s new transporting device is over 50 metres long, around 4.2 metres high, three metres wide and has 32 axles. When empty, it weighs 220 tonnes. In fact, it is the largest Schnabel car ever produced for the German market. The rolling heavyweight is capable of transporting all types of transformers that Amprion intends to install – including transformers and rotating phase shifters with a transport weight of up to 500 tonnes. The TSCNET shareholder is thinking long-term: The Schnabel car is to provide its service for a secure transmission system for the next 40 years.

On 6 October, the TSO was handed over the new Schnabel car at the heavy goods terminal in the Rhine city of Mannheim in Baden by the specialist company Kübler Heavy Rail. Hendrik Neumann, Amprion’s designated CTO, comments: “To implement the energy transition, we must adapt and expand our grid in such a way as to enable the integration of large quantities of renewably generated electricity.” For this, Amprion needs a large number of additional transformers and phase shifters, which the TSO can now transport across Germany with its new king-size Schnabel car.

Amprion has put its own Schnabel car for the rail transport of heavyweight transformers into service (picture with designated CTO Neumann on the right: Amprion / Raphael Foidl)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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German field report on underground cabling

07.10.2020

The use of underground cables for power transmission in the extra-high voltage three-phase current range is partly still uncharted technical territory for the four German TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW. As most projects are in the planning, approval, or construction phase, no partial earth cabling project is yet in full system operation, let alone a project with exclusive cabling. However, Tennet has commissioned the Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde line as recently as last week: It is the first 380kV line with underground cable sections in three-phase technology connected to the meshed power grid by the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO).

To inform politics and public about the current status of underground cabling in the national transmission system, the four German TSOs have, at the request of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, jointly prepared a field report on the use of underground cables in the extra high-voltage three-phase current range. The 65-page report examines seven different key issues in respective main chapters, covering technical, administrative, economic, environmental, and social aspects: dialogue and acceptance, approval procedures and the environment, design and construction, operation and operational safety, underground cable technology, systems engineering, and finally economic efficiency. Key findings of 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW can be summarised as follows:

  • Partial underground cabling does not per se lead to a greater acceptance of line construction projects – compared to the construction of overhead power lines, the concern merely shifts from the residents mainly to landowners and farmers.
  • As far as planning, approval, and construction times are concerned, current experience shows that partial underground cabling requires at least one to two years more than overhead lines. More extensive implementation planning, intensive soil investigations, and negotiations with the owners consumed a great deal of time in the pilot projects. The construction itself is also more complex due to the necessary crossing of infrastructures, 40 to 60-metre-wide aisles, and major interventions in the soil ecosystem.
  • Regarding operational and system safety, underground cable installations have a lower availability rate than overhead lines, as repair times are significantly longer in case of damage. Moreover, with an increasing share of partial underground cabling, the complexity of grid operation and thus the risk to system stability also rises.
  • In terms of economic efficiency, the costs of partial underground cabling are significantly higher than those of overhead lines, and this applies to planning, construction, and operation. Depending on the project-related terrain and soil conditions, the investment costs are usually six times higher.

The four German TSOs have published their joint “Field report on the use of underground cables in the extra-high voltage three-phase current range” (picture: TenneT)

Linkup
> See TransnetBW news release, in German (html)
> Open Field Report, in German (pdf, 2.9MB)

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