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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> See Transelectrica press release, in Romanian (html)

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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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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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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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> See 50Hertz 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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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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> See Swissgrid media release, in German (html)

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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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EU funding for East Romanian 400kV line

10.04.2019

The planned overhead line from Gutinaș to Smârdan has been awarded a Project of Common Interest (PCI) by the European Commission. As an integral part of the PCI cluster “Black Sea Corridor” for increasing the transmission capacity between Bulgaria and Romania, the new 400kV double-circuit line with a length of approx. 140km and a capacity of 1380MVA will connect the existing 400kV substations Gutinaș and Smârdan in eastern Romania.

The project is being carried out by the Romanian transmission system operator (TSO) and TSCNET shareholder Transelectrica and will not only significantly contribute to strengthening the national power system and securing the electricity supply, but also to the integration of renewable energies from sustainable generation facilities in the Dobruja (Dobrogea) region. Moreover, the new high-voltage line will support regional and European market integration by providing North-South and East-West connections to complete the internal market and further develop the European electricity transmission infrastructure.

The Gutinaș-Smârdan line has now made further progress as it has been selected by the Romanian Ministry of European Funds for a European financing of €31m. This financial support is granted under the infrastructure programme “Programul Operațional INFRASTRUCTURA MARE” with the specific objective of increasing the capacity of the national power system for energy from renewable sources. Transelectrica’s total investment in the project amounts to €56.8m. Work on the new 400kV line will begin already this year and commissioning is scheduled until December 2022.

Transelectrica has received further European funding for the Gutinaș-Smârdan 400kV line (picture showing Gutinaș substation: Transelectrica)

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> See Transelectrica press release, in Romanian (html)

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Eco-compatibility of “Salzburgleitung” approved

06.03.2019

It took 77 months to come to a final decision, but with its verdict of 5 March 2019, the Federal Administrative Court in the Austrian capital of Vienna now has validly confirmed the environmental compatibility of the Salzburg Line (“Salzburgleitung”), a project of TSCNET shareholder APG. The national transmission system operator (TSO) can thus secure not only Salzburg’s electricity supply, but significantly increase the security of supply for the whole of Austria.

Since the 380kV line is one of Austria’s most important infrastructure projects, Gerhard Christiner and Thomas Karall, CTO and CFO of APG respectively, consider the court’s decision a milestone for Austria’s energy infrastructure: “With the Salzburg Line, APG is creating the conditions for integrating the planned massive expansion of renewable energies such as wind and photovoltaics into the electricity grid and for ensuring Austria’s secure long-term electricity supply.” The line project is a key factor in 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.

In the actual APG grid planning, the Salzburg Line is crucial for completing the so-called 380kV Safety Ring, which is to form the backbone of the future Austrian transmission system. By connecting the main wind power generation areas in the east of the country with the pumped storage power plants in the west, surplus wind power capacities not consumed locally can be transported to the storage facilities in the Alps. If required, electricity can then be retrieved again. In this way, renewable energy sources will be used more efficiently.

The environmental compatibility of the Salzburg Line project of APG has been confirmed by the court of last resort (picture: APG)

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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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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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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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> See APG press release, in German (html)
> Watch APG demonstration video “Fliegende Helfer”, in German (YouTube)

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