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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Autonomous drones for digital line maintenance

14.11.2018

The supra-regional Austrian transmission grid is about 3,500km long. This critical infrastructure must be constantly monitored, which can be very demanding, as power lines often run in impassable terrain. In the future, digital solutions will not only determine the control of the entire power system, but also have the potential to facilitate the continuous monitoring of supply lines. This is why the Austrian TSCNET shareholder APG is one of the first transmission system operators (TSOs) in Europe to test autonomous flying drones.

“Operating a power grid is a high-tech business today,” comments Gerhard Christiner, CTO at APG, and continues that the TSO is always searching for technological innovations to continuously improve system safety. Paul Zachoval and Rainer Wagenhofer, project managers for APG’s drone project, explain: “In order to check the APG network for possible damage, our colleagues in the line maintenance team cover a distance every year whose length corresponds to the distance from Vienna to Beijing. The possibilities offered by autonomous flying drones to support this inspection work are enormous.”

After almost six years of development, expectations are high. Some damage to power lines can only be seen from the air and the drones can provide information about current damage even in bad weather and poor visibility. Drones allow shorter inspection intervals and can thus improve security of supply. And finally, they also contribute to the safety of employees, as in many cases it will no longer be necessary to climb the pylons. APG’s recent tests are conducted in cooperation with the Lower Austrian company SmartDigital Concepts (SDC). The SDC flight devices are high-tech drones developed specifically for the requirements of TSOs among others. They are equipped with specialised measuring devices and cameras for the maintenance of infrastructure systems.

APG ist testing autonomous drones for digital line maintenance (picture: screenshot taken from demonstration video)

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> Watch APG demonstration video “Fliegende Helfer”, in German (YouTube)

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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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Transformer transport to Hardegsen substation

30.09.2018

The Hardegsen substation operated by TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), is one of the central power hubs in the southern part of the German federal state of Lower Saxony. But the substation is also of supra-regional importance, as it will serve to connect the Wahle-Mecklar line currently under construction with the local distribution grids.

With a total length of 230 kilometres, the 380kV line from Wahle in Lower Saxony to Mecklar in the state of Hesse is one of the largest power line projects in Germany and belongs to those construction schemes that are essential for increasing the capacity to transmit green electricity from the main generation sites in the north to the consumption centres in the south of the country.

To meet regional and supra-regional uses, the 220kV station will be prepared for 380kV operation and equipped with a total of three transformers capable of spanning between the 380kV and 110kV levels and also between 220kV and 110kV. From 2 to 3 October 2018, the second 287-tonne transformer will be delivered to Hardegsen with a heavy-duty road transportation unit of around 53 metres in length and a total weight of 491 tonnes. The subsequent assembly of the 300MVA transformer at the substation is expected to take three months.

TenneT is supplied with the second of a total of three new transformers for the Hardegsen substation in Lower Saxony (picture: TenneT)

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Construction start for green power line in Hesse

19.07.2018

The future transmission infrastructure in Germany needs to be capable of reliably transmitting green electricity, which is primarily generated in the north of the country, to all other regions. In order to increase the transmission capacity, new extra-high voltage lines such as the 380kV line from Wahle in the German federal state of Lower Saxony to Mecklar in the state of Hesse are indispensable. In March, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), started with the line construction in Lower Saxony, and now also in Hesse the construction work has begun for a stretch of 65km from Mecklar to the border of the two federal states.

With a total length of 230km, the Wahle-Mecklar line is the largest power line project in Germany that is currently under construction. In the process, TenneT takes the utmost account of the residential and natural environment. The sustainable activities of the TSO include bird protection markings, nesting boxes for songbirds, owls and bats, or laying out flower strips. It is also positive to note that almost 50 kilometres of overhead lines with well over 100 pylons can be deconstructed once this section of Wahle-Mecklar is put into operation, since the new north-south connection will be able to carry along the capacity of existing overhead lines. The full commissioning of the Wahle-Mecklar line is scheduled for 2021.

TenneT starts the construction of the southern section of the new 380kV Wahle-Mecklar power transmission line. Picture: TenneT

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Building permit for new TenneT power line

22.06.2018

High capacity transport of wind power from the north of Germany to the consumption centres in the south and west, protection of the environment and participation of the citizens in the decision-making processes ‒ the energy transition has given the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) major tasks. TSCNET shareholder TenneT is therefore anxious to sustainably expand its transmission grid in the interest of electricity consumers and in harmony with nature and the population concerned.

The Dutch-German TSO now has received the green light for an important new construction project in the federal state of Lower Saxony: a 30km long power line from Wilhelmshaven on the German North Sea coast to the Conneforde substation in Ammerland. 5.3km of the 380kV line will be realised by underground cabling. The start of construction is scheduled for autumn 2018, and also the substation in Wilhelmshaven is yet to be built.

In his comment on the building permit, Lex Hartman, member of TenneT’s executive board, identifies the new line not only as another “important milestone for the future supply security in Lower Saxony”, but also as necessary for the connection of the regional wind-rich areas to TenneT’s supraregional transmission system. Olaf Lies, Lower Saxony’s Minister for the Environment, Energy, Construction and Climate Protection, adds: “The new power line Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde is a sustainable investment in the future and a further important project for the energy transition in Lower Saxony.“

TSCNET shareholder TenneT receives building permit for the powerline project Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde. Illustration using a map/visualisation by TenneT.

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Swiss research on hybrid overhead lines

05.06.2018

While the need for extending the transmission system in order to meet the requirements of the energy transition is high, the public acceptance, in particular of new overhead lines, does not exactly correspond to this infrastructural necessity. This poses new challenges for European transmission system operators (TSOs) in terms of both, publicity work and technical innovation. In order to improve the acceptance of new overhead lines, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss TSO, is engaged in research on hybrid line technologies that enable up to 50 percent more power to be transmitted over existing overhead lines.

Hybrid overhead lines combine AC and DC systems on the same pylon instead of the usual two AC systems. This increases the transport capacity while the tower constructions remain identical in height and width. However, some issues need yet to be resolved, because ‒ depending on external conditions such as weather, dirt or the distance between the cables ‒ interference between the AC and DC systems may cause noise and electrical fields.

“Energy Turnaround”
In collaboration with Swissgrid and other partners, a research group at the renowned technical university ETH Zürich is currently investigating the optimal system layout to keep the transmission capacity high and at the same time to minimise the negative environmental effects.

The research is part of the Swiss national research programme “Energy Turnaround”. In addition to the technological research, social studies are conducted at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Bern. The survey on the social acceptance of the renewables is also carried out in the framework of a national programme, in this case “Managing Energy Consumption”.

Picture: Screenshot taken from video “Hybridleitungen im Feldversuch”, in German (Swissgrid, YouTube)

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Information centre on underground cabling

15.05.2018

The public today is ‒ understandably enough ‒ sensitive to interferences with nature and landscape. At the same time, the energy transition is desired by a large majority of the Germans but can only succeed if grid extension keeps pace with the expansion of regenerative energy production. Of course, this applies to the whole of Europe, but especially to Germany, where most of the considerable green energy production sites are far away from the densely populated and industrialised consumption centres. As underground cables reduce the inevitable impact on nature and make it less visible, they are well-suited to attract the public to the need of extending the transmission system.

A significant infrastructure project is the new 380kV line between the substation Dörpen/West in the Emsland district and the Lower Rhine Region, since Dörpen/West is the onshore converter station for large amounts of offshore energy. Two TSCNET shareholders are responsible for the line. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT realises the section between Dörpen and Meppen, from where the line is continued by the German TSO Amprion. For the most part, overhead lines will be deployed, but on a section near the town of Haren, underground cables will be used. German legislation has defined the new connection as one of currently ten pilot projects to utilise three-phase underground cables in the maximum voltage range.

TenneT will be laying out three-phase cables in its German control area for the first time, but has extensive know-how: In the Dutch Randstad region, the TSO has been operating such an underground cable section since 2013 ‒ the longest in Europe with a length of around 10km. In Haren, the initial preparatory work now has been concluded and the actual excavations are pending. Just the right time to bring the public further into the project. For that purpose, TenneT has opened an innovative and in-depth information centre on underground cabling in Dankern, just 100 metres from the cabling route. The centre is aimed at owners, residents and authorised users of the affected areas as well as at public institutions and interested parties. Visitors are also expected to come from other regions where TenneT wants to use three-phase cabling.

> See TenneT press release, in German (html)
> Visit information centre website, in German (html)

Picture: TenneT

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Construction of new German green power line

28.03.2018

TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), has started the construction of an important green power line. The new 380kV line from Wahle in the German federal state of Lower Saxony to Mecklar in the state of Hesse has a length of about 230km. It is one of those German extra-high voltage line projects to increase the transmission capacity for wind energy from northern Germany to the consumption centres in the west and south. It is also the third new line that TenneT is building in Lower Saxony alone. All three of them are pilot projects according to German legislation for the partial use of three-phase underground cables.

Lex Hartman, member of the TenneT executive board, comments the construction start near the town of Einbeck in southern Lower Saxony: “With the commencement of construction of the north-south connection Wahle-Mecklar, TenneT is currently realising projects with a total length of more than 300 kilometers in Lower Saxony and Hesse.” The full commissioning of Wahle-Mecklar is scheduled for 2021. A positive side effect is that with the new line, TenneT will be able to carry along the capacity of existing 110kV overhead lines, allowing the TSO to dismantle more than 200 line kilometres in southern Lower Saxony and northern Hesse.

> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

Picture: TenneT

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