Ernen-Ulrichen 380kV line in operation

21.10.2019

With the erection of the last of a total of 57 pylons, the new extra-high voltage line between the Ernen and Ulrichen substations in the Swiss canton of Valais has now been completed. The 30-kilometre section is part of the 380kV Mörel-Ulrichen line project of TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO). The line upgrade in the Rhône Valley is vital for the future of Switzerland’s energy supply: In order to fully transfer the hydropower generated in the Valais to the urban areas of Switzerland, the lines of the south-western canton must be connected to the supra-regional 380kV transmission grid, particularly in view of the commissioning of the new Nant de Drance pumped storage power station, scheduled for 2020.

The existing 220kV overhead line between Ernen and Ulrichen is already disconnected. Its 177 pylons will be dismantled from spring 2020 and the former pylon locations will be recultivated. Swissgrid is additionally carrying out nature conservation projects of national importance in the vicinity of the new line. Also starting next year, the Swiss TSO will continue its Valais upgrade project with the new construction of the next section between Ernen and Mörel-Filet, which is expected to be commissioned as 380kV line by the end of 2022.

Swissgrid has commissioned the new 380kV line between Ernen-Ulrichen (picture: Swissgrid)

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Randstad 380kV North Ring in operation

14.10.2019

The four largest Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) and their surroundings constitute the Randstad region in the Netherlands. With a population of more than 8 million people, it is Europe’s most densely populated area. Randstad has a high energy demand, which needs to be reliably met and secured also in the future. However, infrastructure construction measures are particularly challenging in such a conurbation. TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), has now made an elementary contribution to security of supply of the Randstad.

After a construction period of five years, the 60-kilometer-long Randstad 380kV North Ring power line was put into operation on 10 October. More than 1000 people from the region, 300 landowners, over 25 responsible authorities, 13 contractors and 200 TenneT employees were involved in its construction. The new high-voltage line will reliably supply millions of households and companies with electricity. It will also provide the transmission capacity required for green electricity from North Sea wind farms. As a complementary measure, the existing 150kV connections in the region were adapted and two new high-voltage substations have been built in Beverwijk and Vijfhuizen.

At 151 locations along the route, Tennet installed innovative Wintrack pylons that consume less space, reduce magnetic field zones and, due to their slim and streamlined shape, fit much better into their surroundings than conventional steel lattice pylons. Ten kilometres of the North Ring have been laid underground. The aluminium cables used by TenneT are a novelty. They are cheaper than conventional materials and conduct electricity more efficiently, which means that their carbon footprint is smaller.

TenneT has commissioned the Randstad 380kV North Ring (picture of the opening ceremony with TenneT CEO Manon van Beek and COO Ben Voorhorst: TenneT)

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Delay for the Bassecourt-Mühleberg line upgrade

07.10.2019

With the decommissioning of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant in the canton of Bern at the end of 2019, part of Switzerland’s energy production in the central Swiss Plateau will cease. In the medium term, this shortage will have to be offset by higher production from Swiss power plants or by energy imports from abroad. This is particularly important in winter, when Switzerland is dependent on additional energy imports.

TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), is therefore upgrading the Bassecourt-Mühleberg power line from 220kV to 380kV and equipping the Mühleberg substation with a new 380/220kV transformer to ensure security of supply in the greater Bern area and the entire central region of the Swiss Plateau. The modernisation of the line will require adjustments to 54 of a total of 142 existing pylons and will not affect the landscape. Both upgrade measures are part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious grid modernisation and expansion plan.

While the installation work for the new transformer in Mühleberg continues, a delay of two years in the voltage increase of the Bassecourt-Mühleberg line is expected due to legal complaints against the line upgrade. In August, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy approved the line upgrade and rejected the objections, which mainly concerned the exposure to magnetic fields and noise or the need to relocate the line or to use underground cables. Various complainants have now appealed against this decision of the Federal Office to the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland, thus preventing further progress.

The upgrading of the Bassecourt-Mühleberg power line by Swissgrid will be delayed (picture: Swissgrid)

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50 new pylons for the Pradella-La Punt line

19.09.2019

The extra-high voltage line in the Swiss Engadine between Pradella/Scuol and La Punt represents a bottleneck in the Swiss and the European transmission grid. To remedy this shortcoming, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), began upgrading the 380kV line to 2 x 380kV in October 2017. This will increase import capacity from the north, strengthen interconnections with Austria and Italy and facilitate the transport of hydropower in the canton of Grisons. The project also improves security of supply in Switzerland and is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious modernisation and expansion plan.

Basically, the upgrade means that Swissgrid will attach a second 380kV line to the pylons, which are originally fitted with only one line on one side. Over the past two years, the TSO has reinforced the mast foundations between Pradella and La Punt and will complete this work in autumn. But Swissgrid has also examined the static of the pylons and discovered that some of them have insufficient load capacity for the second circuit. For safety reasons, it was thus decided to replace 50 of altogether 127 masts instead of reinforcing them. This change has no impact on the routing, but on the schedule: The commissioning of the upgraded line will be delayed by at least one year and is now planned for 2022.

Swissgrid has to erect 50 new pylons for the Pradella-La Punt line (picture: Swissgrid)

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Romanian legislation promotes energy infrastructure

21.06.2019

In Romania, a new law adopted by President Klaus Iohannis on 20 June facilitates nationally important extensions to the transmission system infrastructure. The act promotes the implementation of important investment projects for Romania’s energy security, the construction of overhead lines and compliance with time limits for projects with European financing.

The Romanian transmission system operator (TSO) and TSCNET shareholder Transelectrica expressly welcomes the new legislation. Marius Dănuţ Carașol, chairman of the Transelectrica Directorate, highlights the positive effects on the TSO’s expansion efforts, for example by reducing bureaucratic obstacles.

New Romanian legislation facilitates grid extension (picture showing the Parliament building in Romania’s capital Bucharest: Mari Ana / Pixabay)

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Line upgrade in the German Upper Rhine Plain

11.05.2019

The transmission capacity of the extra-high voltage grid in the southwest of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, is reaching its limits considering the requirements for an efficient and future-proof energy system. To increase capacity and ensure regional security of supply as well as reliable transmission in the future, Baden-Württemberg’s transmission system operator (TSO), TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, is replacing the 220kV overhead line between Karlsruhe-Daxlanden and Eichstetten am Kaiserstuhl (near Freiburg) with a 380kV line. This line upgrade in the Upper Rhine Plain is part of the National Network Development Plan for Electricity and comprises the construction of around 120km of new lines and five substations.

The entire project is divided into four sections and the planning approval procedure for the section B1 between Sasbach and Offenburg-Weier in the Ortenau district was opened on 9 May. TransnetBW had submitted the relevant documents at the end of last year to the Freiburg Regional Council. After official review and a revision by the TSO, the authority initiated the approval procedure. Next steps include the consultation process with a month-long disclosure of the documents to the municipalities concerned and the involvement of public interest parties.

Start of planning approval for the Sasbach-Offenburg section of TransnetBW’s Daxlanden-Eichstetten line upgrade (picture: TransnetBW)

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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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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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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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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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