Construction start for new 50Hertz overhead line

07.05.2019

Following the successful completion of the planning and approval procedures, TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), has begun construction of the first section of the 380kV Perleberg-Wolmirstedt overhead line. The 106-kilometer-long overhead line will connect the Perleberg substation in Brandenburg with the Wolmirstedt substation in Saxony-Anhalt and replace the existing 220kV overhead line from the 1950s. The grid upgrade is necessary to ensure that the increasing quantities of renewable electricity generated in the region will be made available to all consumers in Germany.

The first construction phase extends between the substations Stendal West and Wolmirstedt. Assembly of the 86 pylons for this 37-kilometer section began on May 6. Between Stendal and Wolmirstedt the new line can be installed in close parallel to the existing 380kV Lubmin-Wolmirstedt line. Corresponding preliminary work was carried out last winter and the current work is being monitored ecologically and archaeologically.

50Hertz has started construction of the first section of the Perleberg-Wolmirstedt overhead line (exemplary picture: 50Hertz)

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

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Significant progress for ALEGrO

03.05.2019

October 2018 saw the start of construction of ALEGrO, the “Aachen Liège Electricity Grid Overlay”, which is the first direct interconnector of the German and Belgian electricity grids. With a transmission capacity of 1,000MW, ALEGrO will increase cross-border electricity flows and, at the same time, supply security in the western German region of Aachen-Cologne. The European Project of Common Interest (PCI) is realised jointly by TSCNET shareholder Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), and the Belgian TSO Elia. Only a few months after the start, Amprion can already report some great strides in the construction work.

Underground cabling is used for the entire ALEGrO route (approx. 49km in Belgium and 41km in Germany) and two new converters are being installed at each end of ALEGrO at the substations Oberzier in Germany and Lixhe in Belgium. The coordination effort for the German-Belgian power bridge, which crosses numerous roads, waters or forests, is considerable: Explosive ordnance clearance and the demolition of remnants of world war bunkers are daily business, but of course archaeological investigations and nature conservation are also part of today’s construction standard.

Several teams are working simultaneously at different points along the route in Germany, laying cable conduits into which the conductor cables will later be drawn. 5km of the conduit system have already been completed and 25km are currently under construction. At the Oberzier substation, a hall is currently being erected to house the converter technology. Work is also proceeding well in Belgium, and according to current planning ALEGrO should be operational by the end of 2020.

Amprion is making good progress with the construction of ALEGrO (picture: screenshot taken from video “Elia ALEGrO Project – Reportage”, Elia, YouTube)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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Crossing the Kiel Canal

02.05.2019

The Kiel Canal (“Nord-Ostsee-Kanal” in German), a 95km long canal in the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, saves shipping industry an average of 460km by preventing it from going round the Jutland peninsula. In fact, the Kiel Canal (and not the Panama or Suez Canal, as one might think) is the busiest artificial waterway in the world. This makes it particularly challenging to cross the Kiel Canal with an overhead line, and the TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), has to master this challenge for the construction of the so-called Middle Axis (“Mittelachse”).

A 220kV overhead line has been in operation between Hamburg and Denmark since 1971. TenneT is replacing this old line with a new 380kV line capable of transmitting seven times as much green electricity. This is necessary given that Schleswig-Holstein produces many times the amount of wind energy that can be consumed locally. New and more efficient lines must therefore be built to transport renewable energies from the land between the seas to the German consumption centres. The Middle Axis is thus not TenneT’s only local extension project and is supplemented by coastal lines (East-Coast-Line and West-Coast-Line respectively). On the Danish side of the border, the Danish TSCNET shareholder Energinet will continue the Middle Axis from Frøslev to the Kassø substation, thereby increasing the electricity trading capacity between Denmark and Germany.

Now TenneT’s work on the Middle Axis has progressed so far that the crossing of the Kiel Canal is on the agenda. Since more than a hundred ships pass through the canal every day, a closure is not acceptable. Because of this, detailed coordination, in particular with the responsible shipping authority, and the use of helicopters were required. On 2 May, TenneT began to fly the auxiliary ropes over the canal. These ropes are aids with which the actual conductor ropes can be installed later. The two pylons on each canal bank, which are connected by the helicopter flight, have a height of about 80m and are thus considerably higher than the other pylons of the Middle Axis.

TenneT is crossing the Kiel Canal with the Middle Axis power line (picture: screenshot from a video on the Twitter account of TenneT)

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NEDO Project meetings in Tokyo

24.04.2019

A three-year Slovenian-Japanese smart grid project was launched in November 2016. The main partners are the Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO), its authorised contractor Hitachi, the multinational conglomerate, and TSCNET shareholder ELES, the Slovenian transmission system operator (TSO). In addition to ELES, numerous Slovenian stakeholders also contribute to the NEDO Project, the aim of which is to implement a smart grid at national level. For the power system, the benefits lie in innovative solutions that reduce the need for grid extension, as the use of advanced secondary equipment, information, communication and cloud technologies allows better utilisation of the existing grid.

Last week, two NEDO Project meetings took place in the Japanese capital Tokyo. On 17 April, Gorazd Ažman, Assistant Director of the Strategic Innovation Department at ELES, and a representative of Hitachi informed the members of the NEDO Project Steering Committee and the Advisory Board about the current project activities in the Hitachi premises. The next day, a second meeting followed, this time at the NEDO headquarters with high representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Infrastructure, the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, ELES, NEDO and Hitachi.

ELES and Hitachi held two NEDO Project Meetings in Tokyo (collage using a picture of Eles and a picture of Hitachi Headquarters in Chiyoda, Tokyo, by Kakidai, Creative Commons, Wikimedia)

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New 380kV line in Valais

17.04.2019

The complete transmission of hydroelectric power generated in the Swiss Canton of Valais to the country’s urban areas is essential for the future of Switzerland’s energy supply: Without the connection of the Valais transmission lines to the 380kV grid, only around two-thirds of Valais hydropower can be transmitted as soon as the new Nant de Drance pumped storage plant goes into operation. That is why increasing the voltage of the line between the Chippis and Mörel substations in the Rhone valley from 220 to 380kV is an important part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, the grid modernisation and expansion plan of TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission grid operator (TSO).

Swissgrid is planning the new construction of a 380kV overhead line with a length of around 44 kilometres, which will bypass and relieve settlement areas as far as possible. The existing 220kV line will be dismantled after the new line is commissioned. As with every grid project, Swissgrid has evaluated both cable and overhead line variants for Chippis-Mörel, with the result that underground installation would not only be very costly and time-consuming but would also not generate any significant added value for the natural landscape.

At the end of March 2019, Swissgrid submitted the planning approval procedure to the Swiss Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (Eidgenössisches Starkstrominspektorat – ESTI) and also engages in dialogue with the population, the municipalities, the authorities and associations. The TSO’s current planning foresees commissioning of the line in 2025, but in the event of objections and legal proceedings, initial operation may be delayed by several years.

Swissgrid will build a new 380kv overhead line between Chippis and Mörel in Valais (picture: Swissgrid)

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First Borssele cable ashore

17.04.2019

Last weekend, the first submarine cable from the Borssele Alpha transformer platform landed on the Dutch coast, marking a significant progress in connecting the Borssele offshore wind farm area in the southwest part of the Dutch North Sea to the onshore high-voltage grid of TSCNET shareholder TenneT. The Borssele grid connection is the first large-scale project of the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) carried out under the Dutch National Energy Agreement for offshore wind farms.

The last section of the cable laying was quite critical due to the crossing of a ferry route, but during the closure of the shipping traffic everything went according to plan. After the landing of the submarine cable, its installation was continued ashore up to the newly constructed onshore transformer substation. In the coming weeks preparations will be made to connect the second submarine cable for the Borssele Alpha project to the transformer station.

The first submarine cable of the Borssele grid connection of TenneT has reached the coast (picture: TenneT)

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Ostwind 1 in full operation

16.04.2019

Among the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), 50Hertz is mainly responsible for the onshore connection of wind farms in the German Baltic Sea. The Ostwind 1 project of the TSCNET shareholder for connecting the Arkona and Viking wind farms in the “Westlich Adlergrund” cluster in the Baltic Sea near the island of Rügen to the onshore grid has now been finalised – after a construction period of three years and on time for the commissioning of the two wind farms. With a total investment volume of around €1.3bn, the budget was lower than anticipated.

Initial operation of Wikinger took place in autumn 2018, and on 16 April 2019, Arkona was also officially commissioned. Not only is Arkona the largest wind farm in the Baltic Sea, supplying the equivalent of around 400,000 households with electricity, but also its onshore connection sets new standards: Ostwind 1 is the first grid connection in the Baltic Sea with 220kV three-phase current technology to allow a higher transmission capacity. The submarine cables of Ostwind 1 end at the Lubmin onshore substation in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the current is converted to 380kV and fed into the 50Hertz transmission system.

As Arkona is operated by the German company E.ON in cooperation with the Norwegian company Equinor, the official inauguration ceremony in Sassnitz on the island of Rügen was attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Kjell-Børge Freiberg. On the occasion of the celebration, Dr. Frank Golletz, CEO of 50Hertz, commented on the Ostwind 1 converter platform and the exemplary collaboration during its construction: “This offshore platform has set a new standard. The good European cooperation will also be continued in the operation of the wind farm.”

With the official commissioning of the Arkona wind farm, the Ostwind 1 grid connection by 50Hertz has been completed (picture: Eskil Eriksen / Equinor ASA)

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Second draft of revised German GDP

16.04.2019

In early February of this year, the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) and TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW had submitted the first draft of the new 2019 version of their “Grid Development Plan (GDP) 2030” together with the Offshore GDP to the German Federal Network Agency. Both GDPs were also published for a four-week public consultation. The total of 906 comments and proposals on both GDPs have been incorporated into the second draft of the two GDPs, whenever purposeful and reasonable. This second draft has now been forwarded to the Agency and published on the joint GDP website.

While all the different scenarios of the GDP 2030 meet the official German target of 65 percent for renewable energies in gross electricity consumption, they differ in terms of technologies as well as storage and flexibility options. The TSOs respond in the GDP to the increase in the required transport capacity due to the gap in the German electricity market with the renewable generation mainly in the north and the consumption centres in the south and west. For the second draft of the GDP 2030, the TSOs have taken greater account of the possible German coal exit to ensure that the grid development measures identified in the scenarios are appropriate even in the case of an early and complete phase-out.

In all scenarios for 2030, the transmission capacity of the DC connections amounts to a total of 12GW, while the concrete figures for the need for grid reinforcements (2750 to 2800km) and new construction measures (1600 to 1700km) differ slightly. In the second draft of GDP, the TSOs carried out a cost-benefit analysis for a total of eight interconnectors and a reassessment of system stability. This analysis reveals a considerable need for reactive power compensation systems. As a result, the costs for onshore measures in scenario B 2030 increase from €52bn to €61bn compared to the first draft. The Network Agency will now evaluate the revised draft and adapt its own planning, which then must be confirmed by the Federal Government in the official Federal Requirements Plan.

The four German TSOs have published the second draft of the GDP 2030, version 2019 (picture: Amprion)

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> See 50Hertz press release (html)
> See Amprion press release, in German (html)
> See TenneT press release (html)
> See TransnetBW press release (html)
> Visit the GDP website (html)

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ČEPS: Solid finances and major investments

15.04.2019

The high revenues from cross-border capacity auctions and the higher than expected earnings from system services and transit flows were the main contributors to the successful business year 2018 of TSCNET shareholder ČEPS, the Czech transmission system operator (TSO). The company’s profit of CZK3.307bn (about €129m) before tax represents an increase of 14% in comparison to 2017. The total amount of energy transmitted through the Czech high-voltage grid has risen to 65,825 GWh, with a peak load of 11.964MW in February 2018.

ČEPS has also maintained its high level of investment: The TSO expended more than CZK3.8bn (about €148m) in the further development and modernisation of its transmission system. The most important ongoing investment projects include European Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) like the new 400kV double circuit line from Kočín in southern Bohemia to the Mírovka substation near Havlíčkův Brod in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, or the interconnections between the 420kV substations at Vernéřov (Karlovy Vary Region), Vítkov (Moravian-Silesian Region), and Přeštice (Plzeň Region).

Also worth mentioning are the modernisation and expansion of the Kočín substation, which is an important node of the transmission network and due to be completed in 2023, the start of construction for the modernisation of the Horní Životice substation in the Moravian-Silesian region and finish of upgrading the gas-insulated, metal-enclosed Chodow substation in Prague. These and other projects are part of the TSO’s long-term investment programme, the implementation of which is made possible by ČEPS’s stable financial position, strict cost control and good financial performance.

ČEPS reports on the successful business year (edited picture of construction work at Vítkov substation by Lubor Ferenc, Creative Commons, Wikimedia)

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Billions for the Austrian electricity infrastructure

12.04.2019

The electricity transmission system of TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) is increasingly reaching its limits due to the restructuring of the energy system, notably through the integration of renewable energies. As a result, TSO interventions for grid stability and security of supply are currently causing monthly costs of €10m for Austrian electricity customers. APG is determined to respond with an even faster expansion of its high-voltage grid.

The recently granted official approval for the construction of the 380kV Salzburg Line (“Salzburgleitung”) is only the beginning of fulfilling the “#mission 2030”, the Austrian energy and climate strategy that sets the national goal of covering 100% of electricity consumption with renewable energies by 2030. APG has announced the “Austrian Electricity Infrastructure Billion” for further major projects to sustainably secure Austria’s power supply – the largest investment offensive to date into the Austrian transmission grid with a total of €2.5 bn over the next 10 years.

In addition to the Salzburg Line, there are two other large-scale projects: The expansion of the existing grid in the greater Linz Area and beyond (Project “Upper Austria Central Region”) and the replacement of the overhead line through the Weinviertel (“wine quarter”) in the northeast of Lower Austria. For the volatility management that will become more and more necessary in the future, APG is also pursuing innovation projects focusing on central topics like battery storage, digital substations or sector coupling.

“Full focus on renewables is the only sensible way,” explain Gerhard Christiner and Thomas Karall, CTO and CFO of APG respectively. However, they also emphasise that a strong transmission system is the precondition for the full integration of renewables, the decarbonisation targets of the industry, the full utilisation of the pumped storage potential in the Alps and the reduction of costs for grid-stabilising emergency measures.

APG launches billion-euro investment strategy for infrastructure (picture: screenshot taken from video “Wind braucht starke Netze”, APG/YouTube)

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> See APG press release, in German (html)

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