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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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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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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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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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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