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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TenneT to invest up to €5bn p.a. for the energy transition

31.07.2020

The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT has just published its first-half 2020 report. Needless to say, the second quarter of 2020 was characterised by the corona pandemic and the extensive measures taken to ensure a safe and healthy working environment, but despite this, the TSO has made significant progress in developing the transmission grid onshore and offshore and in integrating growing amounts of renewable electricity. At the same time, TenneT has maintained a high level of supply security of 99.99% for 42m end consumers in Germany and the Netherlands.

As Europe’s first cross-border TSO, TenneT promotes the European market integration. The TSCNET shareholder increasingly benefits from its binational integrated approach to grid planning, management, and operation. Manon van Beek, TenneT’s CEO, comments: “Sharing best practices and lessons learned between our German and Dutch operations is paying off more and more in terms of an integrated approach to offshore and onshore grid expansion, better grid utilisation due to European innovations and cross-border energy system planning.”

TenneT currently operates 14 offshore grid connections, twelve in the German and two in the Dutch North Sea. The twelfth offshore grid connection in Germany, BorWin 3, was handed over to TenneT in the first half of 2020. In Dutch waters, the Borssele Alpha grid connection recently transmitted offshore wind power for the first time and the Borssele Beta grid connection has now been commissioned well ahead of schedule. While in the offshore sector experience from the German market is used for the Dutch, the situation is the other way round when it comes to underground cabling. Here, expertise from the Dutch Randstadt project is applied for the DC connections SuedLink and SuedOstLink. These two largest projects of TenneT, which are being entirely installed underground, will be essential for the transmission of wind energy from northern to southern Germany.

Such efforts require huge investments – facilitated by solid financial results: The underlying operating result (EBIT) increased to €414m in the first half of 2020. During the same period, investments in the German and Dutch high and extra-high voltage grids also increased by approximately 30% compared to the first half of 2019, but will do so much more in the future. TenneT expects a further rise in the annual investment volume to €4 to 5bn in the next years. Otto Jager, CFO of TenneT, explains: “We are going to connect growing amounts of renewable electricity to the grid while facilitating the development of a borderless European electricity market. In light of future equity funding needs, the ongoing talks with the German government about a possible equity participation, next to the Dutch State, are welcomed by TenneT.”

TenneT presents Half-year Report 2020 (picture: TenneT)

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TenneT records 21% increase in offshore transmission

28.07.2020

In the first half of 2020, the wind energy transmitted from the North Sea ashore by the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT rose to 11.51TWh. This represents an increase of 21.1% compared with the 9.51TWh in the first half of 2019, bringing the North Sea’s share of total wind power generation in Germany to 15.6%. The maximum feed-in volume from offshore wind farms in the German North Sea was 6,035MW on 2 January 2020. By 30 June, the generation capacity of the German North Sea wind farms reached 6,679MW, a volume which is exceeded by TenneT’s offshore transmission capacity of 7,132MW. This amount, which is higher than the German government’s 2020 target (6.5GW for the North and Baltic Seas combined), is currently being achieved with twelve German offshore grid connections.

Tim Meyerjürgens, COO of the TSCNET shareholder, comments on the impressive figures: „The expansion and integration of offshore wind energy is of central importance for the European energy transition.” And offshore development is also keeping pace in the Dutch market: “With Borssele alpha and – from mid-August – Borssele beta, we have now also successfully completed the first two offshore connections in the Dutch North Sea.” TenneT promotes capacity expansion with technical innovations and, according to Meyerjürgens, wants to remain a driving force in the offshore sector: “Ever since TenneT set the standard for plastic-insulated DC cables at 320kV in the offshore sector around ten years ago, we have been defining a new global benchmark for the future with our 525kV DC subsea cable system and its transmission capacity of two GW.”

The 525kV development programme should lead to a standardised cable system that the TSO can employ by 2030 for the three German North Sea projects BalWin1, BalWin2, BalWin3 and the two Dutch projects IJmuiden Ver alpha and beta as well as in potential further projects of equal power and voltage. TenneT is expecting lower costs, greater security of supply and less impact on the environment. These efforts require considerable investment: “We have an investment programme of around €20bn earmarked for connecting offshore wind energy in the Netherlands and Germany by 2030,” explains Meyerjürgens. Important in this context are also hydrogen and hybrid initiatives. The North Sea Wind Power Hubs proposed by TenneT explicitly include power to gas concepts. Furthermore, in June, TenneT proposed to the EU and the Dutch and German governments an integrated energy system approach for the international offshore development.

TenneT increased its transmission of offshore wind energy by 21% in the first half of 2020 (picture: TenneT)

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Worldwide unique equipment for TransnetBW substation

18.07.2020

European transmission system operators (TSOs) respond to the increasing need for grid regulation – resulting from the growing share of volatile renewable energies and the proceeding shutdown of conventional power plants – with reactive power compensation measures, such as the installation of shunt reactors. Shunt reactors are absorbers of reactive power and support security of supply and system management by keeping the grid voltage within the specified range, especially during low load periods. They thus stabilise the power grids and increase the energy efficiency of the transmission system.

In the Stuttgart-Mühlhausen substation, TransnetBW, one of the four German TSOs, has commissioned a variable shunt reactor for reactive power compensation developed especially for the TSCNET shareholder. Up to now in the TransnetBW control area, shunt reactors have only been used in the 110kV grid. Compared to customary reactors, the new system provides a much more precise control of the grid voltage. The 360-tonne reactor has a control bandwidth of 50-250MVAr in 33 stages and a permanently permissible system voltage of 440kV. With these specifications, the Mühlhausen shunt reactor is not only a novelty for TransnetBW, but for the entire energy sector.

TransnetBW has commissioned a state-of-the-art shunt reactor in the Stuttgart-Mühlhausen substation (symbolic picture: Siemens)

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TenneT installs first TCSC system in Germany

16.07.2020

Series compensation is an innovative technology that significantly increases voltage stability in transmission systems. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is constructing Germany’s first series compensation system in the Stadorf substation in the Lüneburger Heath. From 2023, this will prevent grid bottlenecks in the German state of Lower Saxony. On 15 July 2020, the future heart of the upgraded substation reached Stadorf after an intricate transport by ship, rail and road and was placed on its foundation: a direct-coupling transformer with a transport weight of 528 tonnes.

The TSCNET shareholder supplies large areas of the eastern part of Lower Saxony with electricity via the Stadorf substation. Due to the energy transition and the corresponding transmission of wind power from the north of Germany to the consumption centres in the south, the substation will assume a supra-regional and important function in the future. For this purpose, Stadorf is being comprehensively modernised and extended by a so-called Thyristor Controlled Series Capacitor (TCSC) facility, the first of its kind in Germany.

TCSC allows a fast-dynamic modulation of the inserted reactance and in this case specifically to relieve persistently overloaded lines and redirect load flows. The new direct coupling transformer with a transmission capacity of 300MVA connects the 380kV lines of TenneT with the 110kV lines of the regional distribution system operator (DSO). It provides load flow in both directions, so that locally generated surplus green electricity can be transferred if required. As a result of the substation upgrade with TCSC equipment, the disconnection of wind turbines, regulatory intervention in the grid, and the associated costs will be reduced – and overall system security increased. TenneT anticipates annual savings in the double-digit million euro range.

TenneT is implementing a TCSC facility in the Stadorf substation, the first of its kind in Germany (picture: TenneT)

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Smart control of heat pumps – HeatFlex expands

08.07.2020

Launched in the summer of 2018, the HeatFlex research project aims to exploit the potential for grid stabilisation that small and decentralised consumer devices can offer – if actively involved in the stabilising process. The founding project members are TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and the southern German distribution system operator (DSO) Bayernwerk Netz. Following the successful cooperation and positive test results, TenneT and Bayernwerk Netz are now expanding the project. The grid operators are pleased to welcome three new project partners: the DSO Regensburg Netz as well as the public utilities Stadtwerk Haßfurt and SWW Wunsiedel.

With HeatFlex, TenneT and Bayernwerk are jointly researching the most effective integration of decentralised devices – such as electric storage heaters, heat pumps, and water heaters – into grid balancing. These flexible capacities are intended to avoid cost-intensive interventions by the TSO in the case of future grid bottlenecks. Since November 2019, the project partners have already been implementing the first concrete measures based on HeatFlex results: The heat pumps and direct heating systems connected to Bayernwerk Netz are being intelligently controlled for bottleneck prevention. Decentralised heating systems are thus partially taking over the stabilising function of fossil plants. Using ripple control technology already in place, no additional investments are required.

The increase in partners should serve to make intelligent use of even more local flexibility and to investigate further controllable, decentralised consumption units and alternative applications. The ultimate aims of HeatFlex are cost savings, reduction of grid extension, and the acceleration of the energy transition without jeopardising system security. “The intelligent control of the smallest, decentralised electricity consumption units is a small but essential element,” explains TenneT Managing Director Tim Meyerjürgens, “because the many pieces of the puzzle together make up the overall picture of the energy transition”.

The research project HeatFlex is extended with three additional partners (picture: Stiebel Eltron)

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50Hertz aims for 100% renewables by 2032

03.07.2020

50 Hertz, the transmission system operator (TSO) from the north-east of Germany, has launched a climate and economic policy initiative for its control area, which consists of the federal states in eastern Germany and the city states of Berlin and Hamburg. The concrete goal is to cover 100% of the electricity demand in the 50Hertz grid area with renewable energies by the year 2032 and the secure integration of green electricity into the transmission system. As the annual average share of renewables in 2019 was around 60%, the initiative is entitled: “From 60 to 100 by 2032: for an economy with prospects”.

The “100 by 32” initiative corresponds to and exceeds the objectives of the EU Commission’s “Green Deal”, according to which Europe should become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The TSCNET shareholder will focus the entire corporate strategy on the new ambitious target and – in compliance with the legal requirements for safe and reliable grid operation – will mobilise its extensive expertise. Since, according to 50Hertz CEO Stefan Kapferer, further considerable efforts are necessary not only in the own company but also in politics, economy, and society, the TSO offers to support the German federal and state governments in developing suitable areas and potential for wind and solar energy, off- and onshore

Kapferer comments further on the strategy: “The transformation of our electric power supply has entered a new phase. Today’s parallel existence of a conventional fossil generation system and an energy system based on renewable sources is coming to an end. Wind and solar energy must be able to provide ancillary services in the future. We are determined to drive this transition forward, but now with new and full speed.”

50Hertz launches the corporate initiative “From 60 to 100 by 2032” for a complete coverage of electricity demand with renewable energies (picture: 50Hertz)

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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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Contracts for 525kV SuedLink cables

29.06.2020

SuedLink is evolving in major steps this year. The DC line – realised jointly by the two TSCNET shareholders TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and TransnetBW, the TSO from southwest Germany – is the largest and probably most important single project of the energy transition in Germany. With around 700 kilometres of underground cable to be laid and an investment of around €10bn, SuedLink will connect the windy regions of northern Germany with the centres of consumption in the industrially highly developed south and west. In February 2020, the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) initiated the plan approval procedure for the first SuedLink sections, in May the orders for the regional planning offices were placed and now TenneT and TransnetBW have awarded the contracts for the plastic-insulated 525kV underground cables – in parallel with the ongoing approval procedures.

NKT and Prysmian PowerLink have eventually been selected as providers for the SuedLink cables, with a total order value of approximately €2bn. The contract comprises design, manufacture, supply, laying of the underground cables, further installation work, and the final high-voltage testing of the cable system. Both companies have demonstrated their expertise in numerous international connection projects on and offshore, and both have proven the quality of their cables in extensive prequalification tests with several cable manufacturers in a multi-year test phase. They were also commissioned for the German affiliate project, SuedostLink, by the two TSOs 50Hertz and TenneT.

TenneT and TransnetBW chose plastic-insulated underground DC cables with a voltage level of 525kV because they transmit more power compared to a 320kV solution and only require half as many cables. Less transmission loss and less civil engineering work translate into both, financial benefits for the TSOs and minimal environmental impact. TenneT Managing Director Tim Meyerjürgens comments: “In the future, SuedLink will form the backbone of the energy transition in Germany. With the commissioning of the DC ground cables, we are now moving from the planning stage to the realisation of this important power link.” Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, adds: “We are very happy to be able to apply this innovative and environmentally benign technology for SuedLink.”

TenneT and TransnetBW awarded the contracts for the 525kV DC underground cables for the SuedLink power highway (picture: TenneT)

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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Redispatch harmonisation in Germany

26.06.2020

Up until now, redispatch measures between the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) – 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW – and the operators of power plants and storage facilities with a capacity of more than 10MW have been carried out on the basis of IT tools specific to the particular TSO control area. In order to align the individual procedures nationwide, the four TSCNET shareholders on 26 June successfully put the first component of their joint redispatch platform into operation, the “Redispatch Settlement Server” (“Redispatch-Abwicklungsserver” – RAS).

The German electricity market is increasingly characterised by volatile generation and RAS is an instrument to initiate redispatch measures both faster and more flexibly. With harmonised data formats and processes, the redispatch platform, of which the RAS is the first part, provides the basis for the integration of renewable energies into the existing redispatch processes, that is, for future-proof congestion management. In concrete terms, RAS allows TSO control centres to monitor and process all relevant power plant interventions. As a result, TSOs can coordinate their redispatch decisions and activities more efficiently. Moreover, the central management introduces frictionless settlement and transparency processes.

The second part of the redispatch platform is the “Redispatch Determination Server” (“Redispatch-Ermittlungsserver” – RES). RES will complement or replace existing forecasting tools for expectable grid situations such as imminent bottlenecks. It will identify those options for action that are compliant with the regulations and most cost-efficient. Based on RES calculations, TSOs can resolve both predicted and existing grid congestions more efficiently than today. RES is scheduled to go into operation in 2021.

The four German TSOs have succesfully launched RAS, a joint server for redispatch settlement

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

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