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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New transformer for Laufenburg substation

20.11.2018

The Laufenburg substation in the Swiss canton of Aargau is not only one of the largest substations in Europe connecting the electrical systems of several countries, but also the birthplace of the European integrated network operation: In 1958, the “Star of Laufenburg” was put into operation as the first interconnection of the French, German and Swiss electricity grids. TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid is now upgrading the substation so that it can continue to guarantee regional and supraregional security of supply also in the future. With this upgrade, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) is implementing an important part of its grid modernisation and expansion plan, the so-called “Strategic Grid 2025”.

Already in 2017, the old 220kV outdoor switchgear in Laufenburg was replaced by a gas-insulated unit. The by now outdated transformer from 1966 is currently also being replaced, increasing the transformer capacity of the substation from 600MVA to 800MVA. The new 380/220kV transformer was manufactured in the Siemens plant in Weiz in the eastern part of the Austrian state of Styria and shipped from there to the Rhine port of Muttenz near Basel. The subsequent delivery of all individual parts of the device from the port to Laufenburg took around three weeks. The four poles of the transformer, each weighing about 200 tonnes, were moved individually on a special road transportation unit with twenty axes. At the same time, sixteen trucks brought additional material for the installation of the transformer to Laufenburg.

The new transformer will be installed with concrete walls surrounding each pole providing space for the connections of all poles, of which only three will be in operation simultaneously. Thanks to the installed connections, the reserve pole can be put into operation at short notice. Replacement of an active pole by a reserve pole is planned at five-year intervals, which will significantly increase the transformer’s lifespan. The commissioning of the new equipment is scheduled for mid-2019.

Swissgrid installs new 800MVA transformer at the Laufenburg substation in the canton of Aargau (picture: Swissgrid)

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Approval for upgrade of Weinviertel line

12.11.2018

Transparent and comprehensible planning, extensive information for communities, landowners and residents, and the sustainable consideration of environmental interests – the efforts of the Austrian TSCNET shareholder APG have paid off: The national transmission system operator (TSO) has been validly approved to modernise and upgrade the overhead line through the Weinviertel (“wine quarter”) in the northeast of Lower Austria. APG is investing €200m in the project and construction will start in summer 2019.

The increase in capacity of the more than 70-year-old line from 220kV to mostly 380kV is to be accompanied by the bundling of infrastructure, which results in a reduction of 15km of line and 53 pylons and thus relieves the population and nature reserves. In addition, the new line will be connected to the regional distribution grid via a new substation to be built in Neusiedl/Zaya. This will significantly improve the quality of the electricity supply in the Weinviertel and is a precondition for the further integration of wind and solar energy in Lower Austria.

Dr. Ulrike Baumgartner-Gabitzer, CEO of APG, comments on the approval: “We are happy about this result as a consequence of a very transparent process involving all parties concerned.” Gerhard Christiner, CTO of the TSO, emphasises the importance of the upgrade both for supply security as well as the integration of renewables and adds: “The Weinviertel line is an essential component for the realisation of the energy and climate strategy #mission 2030 adopted by the Austrian Federal Government.”

APG has received approval to upgrade the Weinviertel line in Lower Austria (picture: photo composition)

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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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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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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)
> See ABB press release (html)

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Construction start for ALEGrO

30.10.2018

As a responsible and future-conscious transmission system operator (TSO), TSCNET shareholder Amprion is committed to the European Energy Union. An outstanding project in this respect is the Aachen Liège Electricity Grid Overlay (ALEGrO), the first interconnector to directly connect the German and Belgian electricity grids. The European Project of Common Interest (PCI) is being implemented jointly by Amprion and the Belgian TSO Elia. Following a pleasingly short approval procedure, the starting signal for ALEGrO was given today in the commercial area of the west German city of Aachen. Here, Amprion celebrated the start of construction with a symbolic turning of the first sod.

The ceremony was attended by numerous high-level representatives from politics, business and public life, among them Armin Laschet, Minister President of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, who commented: “ALEGrO is a milestone for cross-border power supply and not only connects North Rhine-Westphalia and Belgium, but also brings Europe closer together.” Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, CTO at Amprion, complemented: “ALEGrO becomes part of the EU’s electricity highway system, which links the centres of renewable energy generation with the major consumption centres in Europe.”

For the entire ALEGrO route (about 49km in Belgium and 41km in Germany) underground cabling will be used. The cable laying work is accompanied by the installation of converters at the ends of the cable in Oberzier in Germany and Lixhe in Belgium, which convert AC into DC and vice versa. ALEGrO will have a transmission capacity of 1,000MW and thus provide urgently needed grid capacities for cross-border electricity flows. At the same time, ALEGrO will also strengthen supply security in the Aachen-Cologne region.

Amprion celebrated the start of construction of the Belgian-German interconnector ALEGrO (picture: Marcus Pietrek / Amprion; from left to right: Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, CTO at Amprion; Armin Laschet, Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia; Marcel Philipp, Lord Mayor of Aachen)

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German TSOs revise grid design principles

29.10.2018

The four German transmission system operators (TSOs) and TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, Tennet, and TransnetBW have revised their plans for grid development in Germany and presented the new version of the “Principles for the Design of the German Transmission System”. This joint document of the four TSOs determines needs-based perspective concepts for secure and efficient grid operation in accordance with national and European legal frameworks and obligations.

With the first publication of the principles in 2012, the German TSOs presented the technical and economic basis of grid design in a transparent and comprehensible manner based on three equally important aspects: grid optimisation, reinforcement and expansion. Since then, the framework conditions have changed in several respects. The TSOs have therefore fundamentally revised and extended the common planning principles last published in the April 2015 version. The principles remain subject to continuous future review by the TSOs and will be adjusted if necessary.

The four German TSOs have released their revised “Principles for the Design of the German Transmission System”

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> See TransnetBW news release, in German (html)
> Open Principles, (pdf, 1,35MB)

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“Siglinde” brings record feed-in

25.10.2018

This week, the windstorm “Siglinde” has not only put the north of Germany to the test, but has also brought TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), a record feed-in of wind power as well as important insights. For the first time, 50Hertz has integrated more than 15,000MW of wind power securely into the grid, 15,382MW to be precise. This new record is roughly equivalent to the output of 15 large conventional power plant units.

However, this welcome development is accompanied by a downer: The transmission system under the responsibility of 50Hertz is reaching its limits and during the “Siglinde” storm, the TSO had to resort to redispatch measures and at times had more than 3,000MW of power output throttled and simultaneously increased in other grid areas. “We are now reaching dimensions that take network control with its current means to its limits,” explains Dr. Dirk Biermann, Chief Markets & System Operations Officer at 50Hertz.

Without the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung”, a 380kV line from the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt via Thuringia to Bavaria (also known as “Thuringian Power Bridge”), which went into full operation in September 2017, the demand for redispatch would have been higher. Dr. Biermann comments: “Despite this additional transmission capacity and the massive interventions, all our lines to the south of Germany were operating at very high capacity.” This clearly illustrates that grid extension continues to lag behind the expansion of renewable energies. “We need additional instruments for safe system operation ‒ both in the grid as well as in the market,” appeals Dr. Biermann.

The windstorm “Siglinde” reveals the need to further increase transmission capacity in Germany

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2nd CBA guideline approved

15.10.2018

The European Commission (EC) has approved the second Guideline for Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of grid development projects submitted by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). The comprehensive CBA document, now published by ENTSO-E, and the new methodology included in the publication are the result of a three-year process that has taken full account of the proposals of stakeholders, member states, regulators and the EC. ENTSO-E itself describes the guideline design as “learning by implementing”.

The CBA methodology is of such significance in that it not only provides the sole European methodology allowing a consistent assessment of Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) transfer and storage projects, but its results are also the main input for the EC in the selection of European Projects of Common Interest (PCIs). In addition, the European CBA methodology can be regarded as a source of learning for national CBAs.

The European Commission has approved the 2nd ENTSO-E guideline for the CBA of grid development projects

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