Amprion develops rotating asynchronous phase shifter

27.03.2020

When conventional power generation declines, additional technical measures are needed to ensure the stability of the electricity grids. The energy transition in Germany is prompting the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) to take compensatory measures to keep the grid voltage at the required level. An essential factor in maintaining voltage is reactive power, and TSOs respond to changes in the energy landscape by installing reactive power systems to compensate for the loss of reactive power previously provided by conventional power plants. Reactive power is particularly required for the AC transmission of large amounts of energy over long distances. This is likely to be a common practice in the energy future of Germany.

The German TSO Amprion and Siemens Energy plan to develop and install the world’s first rotating asynchronous phase shifter with a high output of approx. 300MVA. The innovative device is called ARESS: Asynchronous Rotating Energy System Stabilizer. It represents a new and fully integrated technology. In contrast to synchronous phase shifters, ARESS supplies far more rotation energy, especially when providing momentary reserve, and also over a longer period of time. The extremely responsive and powerful electrical equipment thus significantly contributes to frequency stability. ARESS is intended to complement and further develop the Statcom (static synchronous compensator) systems and synchronous phase shifters that are currently in use.

The ARESS project was launched on 26 March with the signing of an agreement by Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, CTO of Amprion, and Dr. Jochen Eickholt, managing director and designated executive board member of Siemens Energy. Due to the Corona pandemic, the documents were signed via video conference. The technology partners are convinced that the ARESS technology can be designed much more cost-effectively and compactly than combinations of available technologies in the same scope of application. Amprion and Siemens Energy expect the project to run for four years until the pilot system can be put into operation.

Amprion and Siemens Energy are developing the rotating asynchronous phase shifter ARESS to provide reactive power (exemplary image of a rotating phase shifter: Siemens)

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Interview: “Consumption drop considered”

27.03.2020

The current decline in Europe-wide electricity consumption is significant and requires both European transmission system operators (TSOs) and Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) to adapt to the lower feed-in rates. “In general, it is expected that the demand for electricity in 2020 will decrease noticeably due to the corona crisis. Some EU member states expect a drop of 10 to 15 percent of annual electricity demand,” explains Maik Neubauer, one of the two Managing Directors of TSCNET Services, the Munich-based RSC in an interview with “ZfK” (Zeitung für Kommunale Wirtschaft), one of Germany’s leading trade journals of the energy and utility industry.

As regards the reaction of energy market participants, Neubauer comments that this decline is being considered in grid management and included in the daily forecasting processes by the TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs). Neubauer sees no threat to supply security: “All suppliers and operators of power plants and critical infrastructures have emergency plans.” These are implemented immediately to ensure the operability of the infrastructures. A favourable factor is that there are currently no external influences, such as natural disasters or critical grid situations, to interfere with operational processes. “The main focus is currently on protecting the operational personnel in order to ensure 24/7 operation of the critical infrastructure levels.”

Needless to say, this also applies to TSCNET Services itself. Although the European RSCs do not have direct grid control responsibility, they do carry out the regional analysis of the transmission system together with the TSOs and act as an early warning system, which identifies possible bottlenecks and dangerous situations. Together with the TSO control centres, the RSC then initiates mitigation measures. To continue providing 24/7 support to TSOs, TSCNET has taken all actions to protect its staff from the pandemic. This includes sending almost all employees to work from home and special protective measures for the operations team. Since almost all TSCNET processes are already highly digitised, the current situation does not present the Munich RSC with extreme challenges.

Despite the pandemic-related decline in power consumption, Maik Neubauer expects no fundamental problems for grid security

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TenneT concludes successful V2G pilot

04.03.2020

Considering the increase in renewable energies, electromobility represents an additional challenge, but also an opportunity for transmission system operators (TSOs). The decentralised feed-in of renewable energies leads to transport bottlenecks in the transmission grid, but when it comes to balancing power generation and consumption, electric vehicles can contribute to maintaining the balance and security of supply. For this reason, TSCNET shareholder Tennet, the Dutch-German TSO, is intensively researching this field. Together with car manufacturer Nissan and energy service provider The Mobility House, the TSO now has successfully concluded a substantive vehicle-to-grid (V2G) pilot project, which was initiated in March 2018.

As part of a SINTEG (“Schaufenster intelligente Energie” – “Smart Energy Showcases“) project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the partners have investigated the potential of electric vehicle batteries in storing and feeding back locally produced electricity in order to stabilise the power grid and at the same time increase the use of renewable energies and save CO2. During the project phase, Nissan electric vehicles were deployed as mobile energy storage systems in the TenneT control area in northern and southern Germany to instantly reduce local overloads in power supply and demand.

The project offers a significant solution to the increasingly frequent bottlenecks. The wind power available in northern Germany was used by electric cars in the region. At the same time, in the south, electricity from fully charged batteries of Nissan LEAF vehicles was fed back into the grid instead of raising fossil generation. These smart redistribution measures were controlled by software from The Mobility House, the smart charge and energy management system ChargePilot, which follows TenneT’s specifications and also considers the mobility and charging requirements of vehicle users.

TenneT managing director Tim Meyerjürgens comments on the V2G research: “The pilot project has shown that we will be able to use electric mobility in the future to flexibly manage renewable electricity production, which is highly dependent on the weather. This relieves the strain on the electricity grid and helps us to limit the expensive throttling of wind turbines. The short-term flexibility, which is thus provided to us by electromobility, can supplement the grid expansion and become an important component of the energy transition.”

TenneT, Nissan, and The Mobility House have successfully concluded a research project on the use of automobile battery systems for grid stabilisation (picture: screenshot taken from TenneT video “Kooperationsprojekt Stabilisierung des Stromnetzes – Vehicle 2 Grid“, YouTube)

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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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“The grid demands digitisation and AI”

02.03.2020

Europe’s high-voltage grid has a total length of around 485,000km and continuously feeds in approx. 1,152,017MW of electricity. The transnational grid can be considered as the backbone of all European critical infrastructures, whose reliable operation is essential for Europe to function as an economic zone. Since this aspect is too often neglected, Maik Neubauer, one of the two Managing Directors of TSCNET Services, the Munich-based Regional Security Coordinator (RSC), has taken the opportunity to share his views on the prospects of the European electricity transmission system in an interview in the current issue (1/2020) of the “THEMEN:magazin”. This German-language medium bi-monthly provides reports on economic challenges and opportunities with a focus on energy policy.

Neubauer points out that, although the European interconnected grid is one of the most complex infrastructures in the world, there have so far hardly been any significant blackout situations – thanks to the cooperation of the European transmission system operators (TSOs), which has been well-established for decades. But since the energy transition is a pan-European project, the increasing flows of electricity from renewable sources do not stop at the border. European TSOs face the challenge of integrating numerous additional energy sources into the grid and operational control processes. Due to the predominance of nuclear and fossil power generation to date, the forecasting and control processes for optimum utilisation and balancing of the European grid have so far been rather deterministic, which is currently changing at a rapid pace with the volatile renewable energies.

Therefore, in addition to grid expansion and swift digitisation of control processes, increased European coordination of congestion and capacity management is essential. The EU network codes and, of course, the RSCs are crucial for this, as Neubauer emphasises. The RSCs receive data on expected grid situations from almost all European TSOs. This information is aggregated by the RSCs to provide an “early warning system” that identifies potential bottlenecks and threats to the grid. The RSCs thus support their TSO customers to counteract potential blackout situations in Europe by taking real- and near-time mitigation actions in their system operations and planning departments. Nevertheless, according to Neubauer, swift digitisation is inevitable to cope with the increasing data volumes in European grid management caused by the integration of renewable energy sources.

Without the seamless interaction of operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT), secure grid management will hardly be possible in the future. Neubauer also predicts that without a high level of artificial intelligence (AI), the complexity in critical infrastructures will no longer be controllable by humans in the medium term. Therefore, AI will soon also radically change the energy sector. Neubauer is well aware, however, that IT security and cyber security must have the highest priority in order to safeguard developments in AI and protect highly critical infrastructures from misuse or even terrorism.

“Artificial intelligence will be indispensable” – in an interview with the “THEMEN:magazin”, Maik Neubauer presented his view on the perspectives of the European electricity transmission system

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Dutch communication pilot project for aFRR provision

25.02.2020

The significant growth in decentralised energy generation is noticeably changing the European energy landscape. Consumers are also playing an increasingly active role by generating their own electricity as prosumers. The electricity system is thus changing from a demand-oriented system with centralised generation to a more supply-oriented system with decentralised generation. Maintaining the balance of the future transmission system is thus a major concern of European transmission system operators (TSOs), which could be supported by new players serving the ancillary services market as balancing services providers (BSPs). However, product specifications stand for a barrier to new entrants, for example in the field of data communications.

TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, is already researching suitable balancing solutions in several projects. TenneT is now also investigating the possibility of allowing decentralised, sustainable electrical energy to participate in the Dutch market for automatic Frequency Restoration Reserve (aFRR). The aFRR delivery requires a real-time data connection. Until now, the only secure and reliable option has been the leased line. This is not a problem for large production units, while for new BSPs the purchase of a leased line is a major barrier to entering the aFRR market.

This is where the aFRR pilot project comes in: For the first time, a new type of data connection was successfully used, whereby the data communication between the market participants and TenneT (for activation and measurements) was realised via TenneT’s mobile network. This removed a major obstacle to the provision of aFRR by (new) BSPs and enabled grid balancing by means of horticulturists, electric boilers and car batteries. TenneT will monitor and evaluate the performance of its mobile network in the coming months. If this is successful, the TSO will make the data connection available as soon as possible to all BSPs interested in using it to supply aFRR.

Tomatoes from Dutch greenhouses keeping the grid in balance – TenneT carries out a pilot project to improve data communication for aFRR supply

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Integrated market in Switzerland

13.02.2020

In Continental Europe, the synchronised frequency is of 50 Hz. It is a core task of every transmission system operator (TSO) to keep the balance between power production and consumption and the grid frequency stable. The Swiss TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the national TSO, operates a market for ancillary services for this purpose. Power plants and other auxiliary service providers (ASPs) in Switzerland hold primary, secondary and tertiary control reserve capacities on behalf of Swissgrid and, in case of frequency deviations, allocate them against compensation. Primary and secondary control energy is retrieved automatically and tertiary control energy manually.

Swissgrid is constantly striving to further develop the ancillary services market with innovative solutions. These include the bundling of manually retrieved products for frequency control and for international redispatch into a single integrated market. A market platform suitable for this purpose, which enables the retrieval of both, tertiary control energy and energy for international redispatches, was successfully launched by Swissgrid last week. This is possible because the two products have the same characteristics and can be called up with the same lead time of 15 minutes.

The specifications of the platform design allow the market offers to be freely changeable. This means, above all, that there is no longer any competition between the tertiary control energy market and the intraday market. ASPs can now offer the energy not sold in the intraday market on the integrated market. Another new feature is that tenders can be processed using the communication protocol of the Energy Communication Platform (ECP) of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), which enables direct communication between the IT systems of the ASPs and the Swissgrid bidding platform. This process automation leads to greater transparency.

Swissgrid has launched a platform for the integration of the tertiary control energy market and the international intraday market (picture of the Mettlen-Lavorgo powerline: Albinfo / CC BY 3.0)

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Germany’s first hybrid Statcom facility in operation

27.01.2020

Since January 24, Germany’s first hybrid static synchronous compensator (Statcom) system is connected to the power grid. For about two years, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), has been modernising its long-established substation in Borken, in the German state of Hesse, practically at the centre of the German transmission system. The heart of the conversion work was the installation of the Statcom system. Due to the limited space available at the site, TenneT decided to build the Statcom system in hybrid construction, thus reducing the additional space requirement to less than one hectare.

With the high-performance technology in operation, TenneT uses the historic substation in Borken, which boasts a tradition of almost a hundred years, for a task that will contribute significantly to the success of the energy transition: the provision of dynamic voltage support and reactive power to compensate for the decreasing capacities previously provided by large power plants that are being successively shut down. The TSO invested around €30m in the Borken substation, that now has become one of the most modern hubs for green power in the German grid.

Last Friday, Axel Schomberg, Head of TenneT Grid Operations, together with high representatives of local politics, officially commissioned the Statcom system, underlining the significance of the facility for the energy transition. In combination with the numerous other reactive power compensation systems operated in the 129 German TenneT substations, including compensation coils, MSCDN systems and the first rotating phase shifter in the German power grid at the time of installation, the Statcom system contributes to the static reactive power supply.

TenneT has commissioned Germany’s first hybrid Statcom system (picture: TenneT)

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HOPS commissions variable shunt reactor

22.01.2020

A further step for the successful implementation of the Croatian-Slovenian smartgrid project SINCRO.GRID has been taken. The European Project of Common Interest (PCI) aims at optimising the efficiency of the Croatian and Slovenian electricity transmission grids through the application of advanced technologies and innovative data processing methods and is carried out by the two TSCNET shareholders ELES, the Slovenian transmission system operator (TSO), and HOPS from Croatia.

At the beginning of December 2019, the ELES substation in Divača has been equipped with a variable shunt reactor, an effective compensation tool for reactive power control. Now HOPS has put the same technically advanced system into operation at its substation in Mraclin near Zagreb. With this, HOPS has concluded the first stage of SINCRO.GRID. After the implementation of additional measures and devices, including a static VAR compensator, the Croatian TSO will be able to actively manage the reactive power flows in the Croatian power grid. This will solve problems of overloads in the long term and thus have a positive effect on grid stability and security of supply for customers.

HOPS has commissioned a variable shunt reactor as part of the SINCRO.GRID project (picture: HOPS)

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> See HOPS press release, in Croatian (html)
> Visit SINCRO.GRID website (html)

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Swissgrid and hydropower storage plants agree on minimum production

20.12.2019

To avoid an overload of grid elements in western Switzerland during the winter holidays, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), has agreed upon a minimum production with selected regional hydropower storage plants. This is intended to reduce the potential increased and costly need for redispatch during these low-consumption days.

The measure is also necessary because the availability of the transformer at the Bassecourt substation in the canton of Jura is currently limited and the new transformer at Mühleberg in the canton of Berne has not yet been fully installed. Both projects will be implemented in spring 2020. The agreed minimum production in the period from 20 December 2019 to 6 January 2020 is 200MW (off-peak) and 400MW (peak).

Swissgrid has negotiated minimum production from hydropower storage plants

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First pylon of new East Bavarian Ring erected

16.11.2019

The Ostbayernring (East Bavarian Ring) is an existing power line operated by the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT, that stretches about 185km from the Upper Franconian town of Redwitz via Mechlenreuth and Etzenricht to Schwandorf in the Upper Palatinate. After the shutdown of Northeast Bavarian nuclear and conventional power plants, the Ostbayernring primarily transports renewable energies. On several days of the year, more energy is generated by wind turbines and photovoltaic plants in the regions along the East Bavarian Ring than is needed locally. Due to the resulting increase in the amount of renewable energy fed into the grid, the East Bavarian Ring regularly reaches its capacity limits.

To ensure the security of supply and the reliability of the grid and to prevent grid failures for the entire region of Upper Franconia and Upper Palatinate, the transmission capacities of the East Bavarian Ring need to be significantly improved. A replacement construction for the East Bavarian Ring was therefore included in the German Federal Requirements Plan and the urgency of the project for the energy market was legally determined. The new line is being constructed along the existing route, extending the current 380/220kV systems to two 380kV systems.

In the course of the construction of the new East Bavarian Ring and the related grid reinforcement, the Redwitz, Mechlenreuth, Etzenricht and Schwandorf substations of the TSCNET shareholder are also being upgraded. Now the first pylon of the new Ostbayerring has been erected on the site of the Etzenricht substation. TenneT has captured the construction on film in order to give a well-founded impression of the erection process.

The first pylon of the new East Bavarian Ring of TenneT has been erected (picture: TenneT / screenshot taken from TenneT-video “TenneT Ostbayernring: Der Projektleiter stellt sich vor”, YouTube)

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> See TenneT tweet, in German (html)
> Watch video of the pylon construction (YouTube)

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