Coupling of renewables and PtG for climate targets

11.12.2018

In order to achieve ambitious climate targets, a rapid expansion of renewable energy generation is essential. The German market still has great offshore potential in this respect. However, regenerative expansion makes no sense if the corresponding transport or storage capacities are lacking. TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), is already known for its sustained efforts to significantly expand the transmission infrastructure in its control area as environmentally friendly as possible. But the TSO is also very active in the development of storage concepts, just consider, for example, the storage potential of the North Sea Wind Power Hub project or the “ELEMENT ONE” power-to-gas (PtG) pilot plant.

Together with Siemens and Shell, both global players in their respective fields, Tennet is now making additional efforts to promote the renewables as well as PtG. The three companies are convinced that green hydrogen will play a decisive role in the future energy mix as the basis for many power-to-X applications, which are technologies for storage and other uses of surplus electricity. TenneT, Siemens and Shell have thus commissioned a study on a new type of tender model for offshore wind capacity. This model intends to link the awarding of contracts for the operation of offshore plants to the production of hydrogen: The additional wind power from such facilities should not put too much strain on the onshore grid, but rather be used to generate hydrogen and even stablise the electricity grid. The green hydrogen can be transported via the gas grid and then be used in other sectors, such as industry or mobility.

Lex Hartman, Managing Director of TenneT, is determined to not squander any potential for renewable energies and convinced that PtG technologies provide flexibility, reduce the strain on the grid and make power supply more secure. “In the long term,” Mr Hartman continues, “the combination with hydrogen production can also be applied throughout Germany to other renewable energies. This advances the energy transition and helps to achieve our climate targets.”

TenneT, in cooperation with Siemens and Shell, proposes to couple offshore wind capacity tenders with PtG storage technologies (copyright photo composition by Stadtwerke Mainz)

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Households supersede power plants

05.12.2018

It is widely known that the closure of conventional power plants in the course of the energy transition and the resulting decrease in operating reserve pose demanding challenges to transmission system operators (TSOs). They now have to compensate for this lost reserve to ensure stability of the transmission grid and secure the customer supply. In its search for new approaches, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, has been cooperating for quite some time with the sonnen GmbH, a company specialising in home energy storage systems. Now a breakthrough has been announced: For the first time, sonnen provides operating reserves throughout Germany with its networked home storage systems.

This means that the currently largest virtual battery, which can compensate for grid fluctuations, goes into operation. This battery works in a unique way: It consists of thousands of individual electricity storage units, which are used for the own energy consumption of their respective households. If there are deviations in the power grid, these batteries automatically arrange themselves into a virtual large battery by means of artificial intelligence. Households are thus capable of performing the same compensation functions as conventional power plants and short-term deviations in the grid can be compensated very quickly. For this reason, sonnen, together with its technology partner tiko Energy Solutions, has been prequalified by TenneT to provide primary control reserve.

The prequalification of the virtual battery system for the primary control power market is subject to the strictest technical and safety requirements. Lex Hartman, Managing Director of TenneT, comments on the innovative technology: “That networked battery storages as virtual power plants are now able to stabilise the grid in the event of frequency deviations, is a further step on the road to increased system integration of renewable energies.”

TenneT has prequalified a virtual battery system consisting of individual storage units for the provision of operating reserve (picture: TenneT)

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Upcoming change in the 50Hertz management

05.12.2018

Since 2010, Boris Schucht has been CEO of TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs). Before his engagement with 50Hertz, Schucht has already held senior management positions for companies from the energy sector such as Vattenfall Europe Venture GmbH or WEMAG AG. After nine successful years at the helm of 50Hertz, the CEO of the north-eastern German TSO now wants to face new professional challenges.

Boris Schucht and the 50Hertz Supervisory Board as well as the shareholders Elia and KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) on 4 December consensually agreed that the current CEO will manage 50Hertz up until 28 February 2019. Mr Schucht commented on the recent company evolution: “For 50Hertz, a new era begins after the share transfers this year. After nine very exciting and extremely successful years with a really great team, this is the right time for me to pass on the baton.” Chris Peeters, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, expressed his sincere thanks for Boris Schucht’s “dedicated contribution to the company’s success story”.

Boris Schucht will resign as CEO of 50Hertz (picture: 50Hertz / Jan Pauls)

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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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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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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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Construction start for Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde line in Germany

09.11.2018

The power line from Wilhelmshaven on the German North Sea coast to the Conneforde substation in Ammerland, both in the federal state of Lower Saxony, is one of those line projects in Germany that are urgently needed to extend the transmission capacities for wind energy from northern Germany to the consumption centres in the south and west. Moreover, the 380kV line is one of the German pilot projects for partial underground cabling in the three-phase current range. It will be around 30km long and comprise 60 pylons. In two sections, underground cables will be laid over a length of around 5.3km.

TSCNET shareholder TenneT has now begun construction of the new line with a symbolic turning of the first sod in Conneforde. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) by no means celebrated its first new construction in recent times: “This is already the fifth grid expansion project in Lower Saxony for which we can officially start construction within one year,” explains Lex Hartman, Managing Director of TenneT. Also the Fedderwarden substation (near Wilhelmshaven) is yet to be built. The scheduled commissioning date for line and substation is 2020.

To create transparency in the design process, TenneT involved the interested public, citizens as well as public stakeholders, much more in the planning than the formal procedure would have prescribed. In three years, the TSO has organised nine information markets along the route and conducted numerous individual discussions. “It is our central concern to harmonise our projects as closely as possible with the country and its people, while realising a secure energy supply for the benefit of electricity consumers,” explains Mr Hartman.

From left to right: Andreas Wagner, Lord Mayor of Wilhelmshaven; Dr. Maren Bergmann, Project Manager at TenneT; Rolf Neuhaus, responsible Head of Department at the District of Friesland (picture: TenneT)

TenneT celebrates the construction start of the powerline project Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde (illustration based on screenshots taken from a TenneT video on YouTube)

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Successful test for the Combined Grid Solution

09.11.2018

The Combined Grid Solution is a joint offshore connection project by the two TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, one of the four German Transmission System Operators (TSOs), and the Danish TSO Energinet. The binational interconnector in the Baltic Sea will integrate the electricity systems of Denmark and Germany by linking the German wind farm Baltic 2 to the Danish wind farm Kriegers Flak. The utilisation of grid connections from offshore wind farms to couple the transmission grids of two countries is nothing less than a world premiere.

The laying of the two submarine cables “150kV-line KFE-BaZ 155“ and “150kV-line KFE-BaZ 156“ was completed at the beginning of July and the two TSOs have now successfully conducted 24-hour testing of both cables. Around noon on 6 November and in the afternoon thereafter, the two cables were energised one after the other up to the disconnector on the offshore substation OSS KFE and now are ready to transport electricity. Sebastian Wagner, Sub-Project Manager Sea cables at 50Hertz, and Energinet’s Project Manager Daniel Johan Brøndum jointly declared: “Everyone in the team worked closely together and delivered to-the-point. We are very happy and celebrate this success together.”

The submarine cables for the Danish-German offshore interconnector Combined Grid Solution of 50Hertz and Energinet were successfully tested (illustration based on pictures of 50Hertz / Sebastian Wagner)

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First TenneT Offshore Conference

07.11.2018

The EUREF Campus is the sustainability city quarter of the German capital Berlin with a climate-neutral energy supply and hence the ideal location for the first Offshore Conference of TSCNET shareholder TenneT, which took place on 6 November 2018. Headlined “Land in Sight – The Future of Offshore”, 170 decision-makers from politics, business and the media accepted the invitation of the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) and took part in information panels, lectures and panel discussions. TenneT experts provided far-reaching insights into current pilot projects, information on ongoing studies, cooperations and concepts for future digital smart grid management.

“Offshore is a success story,” was how TenneT CEO Manon van Beek summed up the development to date. “Our conviction is that the second, decisive phase of the energy transition – the integration of 60, 70, 80% renewables and more – will only be successful if we address the issues in a bundled way.” This requires next to infrastructural improvements technical innovations, digitalisation, flexibility and the coupling of sectors.” Lex Hartman, Managing Director of TenneT, described the range of the TSO’s future-oriented approach: “From electric vehicles, blockchain storage and power-to-gas projects to the introduction of acceptability increasing underground cable technologies.” Wilfried Breuer, Managing Director TenneT Offshore, highlighted the company’s success in offshore development: “In the German North Sea, TenneT currently operates eleven offshore grid connection systems with a total capacity of 6,232MW to transmit wind energy from sea to land. This means that already now TenneT is almost completely meeting the German Federal Government’s expansion target of 6,500MW of offshore wind capacity by 2020.”

A key element of the conference was the North Sea Wind Power Hub, a visionary interconnection system that combines the generation, storage and transmission of wind energy with a multinational connection of the transmission systems of the North Sea riparian states. Also on display was an electric car already equipped with bidirectionally functioning batteries. As part of a pilot project, these batteries, which can both store electricity and feed it back into the grid, are used for redispatch. But what turned out to be the somehow “secret star” of the event was “ANYmal”, a special robot that – due to its highly developed motion characteristics – in test runs is already independently performing maintenance and repair work in TenneT’s onshore and offshore facilities.

TenneT held its first Offshore Conference in Berlin, Germany, which was attended by a prominent audience (picture: TenneT)

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TransnetBW pilot on eco-efficient insulating gas

06.11.2018

At its substation in Obermooweiler near the historic city of Wangen im Allgäu and north-east of Lake Constance, TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), is planning nothing less than the world’s first gas-insulated switchgear at extra-high voltage level employing alternative and climate-friendly gas technology. The objective is to apply for the first time in practice an innovative type of insulating gas whose greenhouse effect is more than 99 percent lower than that of the currently used sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and which is equal to or lower than that of CO2.

There are obvious reasons why SF6 has been the industry standard as insulating gas in high-voltage systems for decades: It has excellent electrical properties, is non-toxic and chemically very stable. However, SF6 suffers from a strong greenhouse effect. For climate protection reasons, TransnetBW is thus looking for eco-efficient alternatives. The TSO’s research project aims to provide new insights into the use of an environmentally friendly alternative gas mixture in gas-insulated 380kV switchgears. TransnetBW’s partner in the project, the engineering company ABB, has experiences in the use of alternative insulating gases for switchgears in distribution grids at lower voltage levels. This expertise will now be jointly transferred to the 380kV level.

“The transmission grid integrates renewable energies and is a key element in implementing the energy transition. We also want to promote new solutions for more climate and environmental protection in the design of our grid infrastructure,” explains Dr. Werner Götz, CEO of TransnetBW. The first preparatory construction measures for the new facility are planned for March 2019. As early as 2021, the new switchgear will be connected in a first implementing step. This means an initial SF6 saving of around 55 percent. In the following second step, the existing installation will be converted. From 2026, the entire system will be SF6-free.

TransnetBW has started a research pilot for the use of climate-friendly insulating gas in gas-insulated switchgears at 380kV level (picture based on screenshots taken from video “ABB commissions world’s first switchgear installation with new eco efficient gas”; ABB, YouTube)

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