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)

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

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Amprion commissions new Statcom facility

30.09.2020

The rising share of volatile renewable electricity generation and the increasing transmission distance from the places of generation to the centres of consumption require power grids to be adjusted, with immediate voltage regulation being a key element. To balance out voltage fluctuations, which are more and more occurring at the grid nodes, the European transmission system operators (TSOs) employ reactive power compensation systems. German TSCNET shareholder Amprion is no exception and already using a wide range of innovative technologies. On 29 September 2020, the company commissioned one more Statcom (static synchronous compensator) system, in this case on the site of the Kusenhorst substation in Haltern am See in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Almost exactly one year ago, Amprion commissioned an identical system at the Kriftel substation between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden in Hesse.

Amprion has invested a total of €37m in the expansion of the Kusenhorst substation. According to demand, the Statcom system can feed in reactive power in the range of about 300Mvar, thus raising or lowering the voltage in the grid to contribute to grid stability. The new Statcom can also be combined with the mechanical switched capacitor with damping network (MSCDN) already on site in Kusenhorst. Together, the two technologies form a so-called hybrid facility for reactive power compensation, making it the most powerful of its kind in the German grid alongside the Kriftel substation.

The Statcom system consists of several building sections, which are up to ten metres high and cover an area of approximately 1,000m². They contain the converter, chokes, and the regulation and protection technology. The transformer and the external cooler of the system are outside the buildings. Amprion operates the Statcom system remote-controlled via its system operation and control centre near Cologne.

Amprion has commissioned a Statcom system for reactive power at its Kusenhorst substation (picture: Amprion)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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ALEGrO on the final straight

17.09.2020

Lichtenbusch near the westernmost German city of Aachen is located directly on the border between Germany and Belgium and is divided into a Belgian and a German part. Right here, on 16 September 2020, the final joint of the “Aachen Liège Electricity Grid Overlay” (ALEGrO) was installed by TSCNET shareholder Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), and its Belgian partner TSO Elia. Over a distance of 90 kilometres, the DC interconnector with a transmission capacity of 1,000MW connects the Oberzier substation in the German Rhineland region with the Elia substation in Lixhe in the Walloon province of Liège. ALEGrO is the first direct link between the Belgian and German electricity grids and was realised over its entire length by means of underground cables.

The European Project of Common Interest (PCI) provides much needed grid capacity for cross-border electricity flows, while strengthening security of supply in the German region of Aachen-Cologne and the Belgian province of Liège. The cable laying work for ALEGrO started in October 2018 and after twenty months of construction, the civil engineering work was concluded in June 2020. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, ALEGrO is thus on schedule and nearing completion. The binational power bridge will go into technical operation in October 2020 and will be available to the European electricity market from mid-November. The technical integration of the DC cable into the three-phase grid is a step by step process. The same applies to the parallel market integration. Here, day-ahead capacities are offered first followed by intraday capacities. The allocation of long-term capacities will start in early 2021.

Amprion and Elia installed the final link of the ALEGrO interconnector, which will go into technical operation soon (picture of the project managers Ingo Sander, Amprion, and Dirk Wellens, Elia: Amprion)

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> See Amprion press release (html)

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Foundation stone laid for ULTRANET substation

17.09.2020

On the site of the former Philippsburg nuclear power plant, which was shut down completely on 31 December 2019, a new DC substation for the German supra-regional “power highway” ULTRANET is being constructed. The Philippsburg substation in the German state of Baden-Württemberg represents the southern end point of ULTRANET, where the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line will be connected to the regional 380kV AC grid. The new substation is thus to become one of the most important energy hubs in Germany’s future energy landscape. It is being built on behalf of TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, the transmission system operator (TSO) from Baden-Württemberg. In its entirety, ULTRANET is a joint project of TransnetBW and further German TSCNET shareholder Amprion. It will transmit wind energy generated in the northwest of Germany to the industrially highly developed southwest. On the other hand, the Philippsburg substation will enable the conversion of AC to DC, e.g. to transport excess photovoltaic electricity from the south to the north.

In March 2020, the construction of the ULTRANET substation was approved by the competent authority and in May, the demolition of the two cooling towers of the former power plant created the necessary construction space of around 100,000m². Now, the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone took place in Phillipsburg in the presence of high-ranking representatives from politics, business, and society – and in strict compliance with the Corona regulations. Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, commented: “It was nevertheless very important to us not to let this important day pass without expressing our thanks to politicians, partners, and the project team.”

Andreas Feicht, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, recognised the progress of the European Project of Common Interest (PCI): “The converter in Philippsburg illustrates that the grid expansion is progressing in large steps.” Franz Untersteller, Minister of the Environment, Climate Protection, and the Energy Sector of Baden-Württemberg, emphasised the specific nature of the location and its symbolic value: “There are few places where the energy transition can be visualised in such a condensed form as here in Philippsburg. After the two cooling towers were detonated in May of this year, the old world made way for the new.”

TransnetBW has celebrated the laying of the foundation stone for the ULTRANET substation in Philippsburg (picture: TransnetBW)

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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Generation change in Amprion’s technical management

27.08.2020

The Supervisory Board of Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), appoints Dr Hendrik Neumann as CTO with effect from 1 January 2021 to succeed Dr Klaus Kleinekorte, who will retire in 2021. Dr Kleinekorte will be actively supporting the transition process. For this, and for the great contribution he has made to Amprion’s success, Heinz-Werner Ufer, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the TSCNET shareholder, expresses his great gratitude.

With its personnel decision, Amprion is opting for an internal solution. Dr Neumann, who holds a doctorate in electrical engineering, has gained extensive experience in various technical areas at Amprion over a period of more than ten years and combines extensive know-how in the management of complex technical projects with a view to the entire energy system. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Brick, CEO of Amprion, is very pleased to welcome the company’s new CTO: “Hendrik Neumann contributes a broad range of knowledge and thus helps us to continue to live up to our responsibility in the future with innovative solutions.”

Dr Hendrik Neumann has been appointed CTO of Amprion (illustration using pictures of Dr Neumann and Dr Kleinekorte, on the right, by Amprion / Hartmut Nägele / Frank Peterschröder)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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Grid maintenance by helicopter

20.08.2020

These days, the western German power transmission system operator (TSO) Amprion, based in Dortmund, is again starting to control its extra-high voltage overhead lines from a helicopter. By the end of September, approximately 3400 overhead line pylons and about 900 kilometres of overhead lines are to be checked from the helicopter. The actual control is carried out by two employees of the TSCNET shareholder, who fly in each helicopter. However, flying over the lines is always a challenge for pilots, as they must fly up to three meters to the masts and lines at low altitudes and a speed of 20 to 25 kilometres per hour.

Any damage is easier to detect from the air than from the ground. The experts are mainly looking for rope damage, defective insulators, or damage to the mast linkage. However, they also look for trees that grow too close to cables or plastic tarpaulins in the cables, for example. Defects are recorded, evaluated, and later repaired by technicians. Serious defects such as a defective insulator are reported immediately and repaired immediately. Within a few weeks, Amprion thus obtains an overview of the entire extra-high voltage grid.

Over the coming weeks, Amprion will inspect its overhead lines from a helicopter (illustration using a picture of Amprion)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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Amprion: “Smart Valve” for flexible power flow control

05.08.2020

To maintain the stability of the transmission grid despite the current increase in decentralised and volatile generation, the German transmission system operator (TSO) Amprion – like many other TSCNET shareholders – is already using a wide range of innovative technologies, for instance Phase-shifting transformers (PSTs) or reactive power compensation systems such as Statcom. A promising pilot project has now additionally been launched, for which Amprion has signed a cooperation agreement with the US Silicon Valley company, Smart Wires. In the three-phase project, the mobile modular static-synchronous series compensator (mSSSC) developed by Smart Wires, the so called SmartValve, will be deployed in the Amprion grid.

The aim of the project is both to increase the transmission capacity of Amprion’s transmission grid and to maintain its high level of system stability. SmartValve is designed for a more balanced and thus more efficient use of power lines. By actively changing the power flows, it enables better control of the transmission system and minimises redispatch. Due to its modular structure, SmartValve is easy to transport and can be operated flexibly at different locations. This distinguishes the new technology from conventional PSTs, for example, making it an ideal complement to support the system from a stability perspective.

Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, CTO at Amprion, refers in this context to the significantly increased costs for redispatch in Germany in recent years due to the changes in the energy landscape. This is where the SmartValve project comes in: “We see this innovative technology as having the potential to allow us to use the network more efficiently and reduce the need for redispatch.” The two partners expect the project to span two to three years to verify the added value of the new technology in the Amprion grid.

Amprion and Smart Wires launched a pilot project to implement the SmartValve solution in the transmission grid (picture: Smart Wires)

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> See Amprion press release (html)

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New Local Implementation Project under SIDC

09.07.2020

European transmission system operators (TSOs) are committed to the European Energy Union by collectively working towards an integrated European electricity market. A key component for market integration is cross-border Single Intraday Coupling (SIDC), which was introduced as XBID in June 2018. SIDC is designed to increase the overall efficiency of intraday trading through effective competition, increased liquidity, and more efficient use of generation resources. Currently, the markets of 22 countries are coupled through SIDC: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. With the inclusion of the Slovakian Nominated Electricity Market Operator (NEMO) OKTE and TSCNET shareholder SEPS, the TSO from Bratislava, the project also extends to Slovakia.

Within the framework structure of the SIDC, Local Implementation Projects (LIPs) provide for the expansion of the market coupling, and a new project has now been established as LIP 17. The NEMOs and TSOs from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – the TSCNET shareholders ČEPS, MAVIR, PSE, and SEPS – have proposed to implement SIDC across the borders between Slovakia-Czechia, Slovakia-Hungary, and Slovakia-Poland. The SIDC Steering Committee approved on 7 July and the LIP 17 roadmap will now be elaborated in more detail.

The SIDC solution comprises a common IT system with a shared order book, a capacity management module, and a shipping module. In addition to the TSOs mentioned above, the TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, APG, ELES, HOPS, TenneT, Transelectrica, and TransnetBW as well as the TSCNET customers Creos from Luxembourg and Energinet from Denmark are also part of SIDC.

A new LIP for the introduction of intraday trading across the borders of Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia has been established under SIDC

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> See MAVIR press release (html)
> See PSE press release (html)
> See SEPS press release (html)

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Successful start of FCR auctions

01.07.2020

The cooperation on regional procurement and exchange of frequency containment reserve (FCR) is a voluntary initiative of eight transmission system operators (TSOs): the six TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, and TransnetBW from Germany, APG from Austria, Swissgrid from Switzerland, and the Dutch-German TSO TenneT, as well as Elia from Belgium and the French TSO RTE. The FCR project is the first regional cooperation for a common market based on the methodology for the exchange of control reserves set out in the EU Guideline on Electricity Balancing. Within the scope of a cooperation model with Amprion, the Luxembourg TSCNET customer Creos is also involved.

The next milestone in the development of the largest European market for primary balancing power reserve has now been reached, as the first D-1 auction for FCR with 4-hour products was successfully conducted on 30 June 2020. This means, the FCR cooperation reduces the product length from one day to four hours and thus the market for primary balancing power is brought closer to real time.

Due to stronger competition between service providers and technologies, the joint auction allows TSOs to procure FCRs at minimum cost to end-users while offering a large common market for all providers of balancing services. It also increases the market attractiveness for short-term flexibility, limits price volatility and improves the security of grid operation by executing cross zonal procurement of FCR. The FCR market, already the largest in Europe, will be extended to western Denmark and Slovenia in the first quarter of 2021, so that with Energinet and ELES two further TSCNET shareholders will broaden the project.

The FCR cooperation successfully conducted the first D-1 auction for FCR with 4-hour products 

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> See Swissgrid news release (html)

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