Construction of ULTRANET substation approved

27.03.2020

The Philippsburg nuclear power plant in the German state of Baden-Württemberg was shut down completely on 31 December 2019. On the power plant site, TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, the Transmission System Operator (TSO) from the southwest of Germany, is planning a new DC substation with a required area of around 100,000m². The substation is to become one of the most important energy hubs in Germany’s future energy landscape, as the supra-regional high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line ULTRANET will be connected here to the regional 380kV AC grid.

After intensive planning, TransnetBW submitted the application for construction permit to the competent district administration for examination in June 2018. The Landratsamt Karlsruhe has now approved the plans of the TSO. “The DC substation plays a central role in integrating renewable energies into the transmission grid,” explains Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board. “In the future, renewable electricity will flow from the Philippsburg site to the entire region. We are thus laying a cornerstone for supply security in a future without nuclear power and coal.”

ULTRANET, a European Project of Common Interest (PCI), is jointly implemented by TransnetBW and the further TSCNET shareholder Amprion. It will transfer wind energy generated in the northwest of Germany to the industrially highly developed southwest. The Philippsburg substation represents the southern end point of ULTRANET. Here, the DC transmitted via ULTRANET to Philippsburg is converted into AC and distributed throughout the region. Vice-versa, the substation allows the conversion of AC into DC, e.g. to transport surplus photovoltaic power from the south to the north.

TransnetBW has received official approval for the construction of the ULTRANET substation in Philippsburg (architectural sketch of the substation: Codema International GmbH / TransnetBW)

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Borssele Beta platform topside ready for sail out

20.03.2020

In the Borssele offshore wind farm area in the south-western part of the Dutch North Sea, Borssele Alpha, the first and largest connection system for wind farms from the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT in Dutch territorial waters, is already in operation. Now the TSCNET shareholder is in the process of installing Borssele Beta to connect further wind farms, in this case Borssele III and IV that are still under construction. The topside of the offshore transformer platform for Borssele Beta is now ready for shipping. It was built at the construction yard of the offshore platform specialist HSM Offshore in Schiedam in the Rotterdam-The Hague metropolitan area and will be put to sea on 22 March 2020.

When the pontoon carrying the 3,650-tonne superstructure arrives at its destination, a crane vessel will place the top side on the platform substructure (jacket). The top side comprises three interior levels and an outer deck. It is 25 metres high, 58 metres long and 32 metres wide. The Borssele Beta grid connection will have a capacity of 700MW and is scheduled to be commissioned on 1 September 2020. The Borssele III, IV, and V wind farms, which are located about 22km from the coast, will be connected to this transmission system. Borssele V by the Two Towers consortium has been designated as an innovation site within the wind farm zone and will be connected to Borssele Beta. The electricity generated by these offshore wind farms will then be transported ashore via two 67-kilometre-long cables to the high-voltage transformer station near the town of Borssele in the Dutch province of Zeeland.

Marco Kuijpers, Director Offshore Projects a TenneT, comments on the TSO’s progress in offshore expansion: “With this platform, the offshore grid that TenneT is building in the Dutch North Sea is definitively taking shape. Borssele Beta is the second offshore grid connection built by TenneT. Over the coming eight years we will build a new offshore connection every year. I am proud that we are able to make such a significant contribution to the energy transition in which offshore wind energy plays a crucial role.”

TenneT also assumes a marine ecological responsibility and makes its offshore platforms available for other uses. The TSO cooperates in this respect with the Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat). The Borssele Beta offshore platform therefore also features a Maritime Information Provision Service Point (MIVSP). This is a monitoring station with various monitoring systems, such as nautical radars, meteorological systems and ecological monitoring systems. Similar stations are being installed on every TenneT offshore transformer platform.

The topside of the offshore transformer platform Borssele Beta of TenneT is constructed and ready for shipping (picture: HSM Offshore)

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50Hertz: More renewables, less redispatch

10.03.2020

For 50Hertz, the transmission system operator (TSO) from the north-east of Germany, the 2019 business year was successful in two respects: More renewable power than ever before was transmitted by 50Hertz. At the same time, fewer and fewer redispatch measures were required for congestion management. This of course also means that the TSCNET shareholder was able to continuously reduce its redispatch costs.

At the 50 Hertz annual media conference in the German capital of Berlin, the TSO presented the following figures: A total of around 60TWh of renewable energy was fed into the grid, mainly generated by wind and sun. This once again set a record in the 50Hertz control area, where renewable energies already cover up to 60% of the average annual electricity demand. In congestion management, 50Hertz was able to reduce the throttled energy volumes from 4TWh in 2018 to only 2.5TWh in 2019 and cut redispatch costs from €134m to €84m.

Stefan Kapferer, CEO of 50Hertz, commented on the TSO’s success: “The north-east of Germany continues to evolve into a ‘green power plant’ of the energy transition in Germany. Even with a constantly growing share of wind and solar power in the grid, we keep the costs under control. With regard to the time after the exit from coal- and lignite-fired generation, we stand for the security of the power system and create the necessary preconditions.”

50Hertz keeps on creating the technical conditions for future success and is making good progress in grid optimisation, reinforcement and expansion. Last year, the offshore grid connection Ostwind 1 was officially commissioned. In addition, 50Hertz lines and substations have been reinforced. To improve the prognosis of grid losses, artificial intelligence (AI) is used in the 50Hertz grid. All this is not possible without sustained financial commitment. Thanks to consistently good business performance – annual result 2019: €178m (2018: €238m) – the TSO will significantly increase its infrastructure investments: In the period 2020 to 2024, investments will grow by €1.1bn to €4.2bn compared to the time span 2015 to 2019.

50Hertz presents impressive figures for 2019 and announces increased investments (picture of Kerstin Maria Rippel, Head of Communications & Public Affairs at 50Hertz, 50Hertz CEO Stefan Kapferer, 50Hertz CFO Marco Nix, and Chris Peeters, CEO of Elia Group: 50Hertz / Jan Pauls)

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Deep Dig-It trencher at work for TenneT

09.03.2020

The Hollandse Kust (South) offshore wind area in the Dutch North Sea is located 22 kilometres off the coast of the Dutch province of Zuid-Holland. TSCNET shareholder TenneT is responsible for connecting the wind farms under construction there via two corresponding offshore platforms to the onshore high-voltage substation in the industry and port area of Maasvlakte, from where the green electricity is transmitted further to the Randstad 380kV South Ring power line in the Dutch Randstad region, the most densely populated area in Europe, and further.

But there is a major challenge to be met by the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO): On the first ten kilometres of the offshore route, the four submarine cables to be laid are crossing the entrance to Europe’s busiest cargo port, the port of Rotterdam. To pass through the busy Rotterdam-Maasmond shipping lane, the cables here must be buried more than 5 metres deep into the seabed. For this specific job, the Dutch maritime contracting company Van Oord designed and built the Deep Dig-It trencher, a gigantic remote-controlled trencher.

Last Friday, final tests were carried out in the Aleksiahaven of Maasvlakte in preparation for the actual laying of the submarine cables in July. The innovative device is a so-called Tracked Remotely Operated Vehicle, which drives unmanned over the seabed, creates a deep trench for the cables, inserts the cables and closes the trench again. The Deep Dig-It is the largest and most powerful machine in its class. The trencher weighs 125 tonnes, is more than 17 metres long, well over 8 metres high and 11 metres wide. This makes it possible to bury cables in very hard ground, while the burial depth that can be achieved with the Deep Dig-It is well over 5 metres.

TenneT employs the powerful Deep Dig-It trencher to connect the Hollandse Kust (South) wind farms to the onshore grid (picture: Van Oord nv)

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COBRAcable proves to be a great success

06.03.2020

It is now half a year since TSCNET customer Energinet, the transmission system operator (TSO) from Denmark, and TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, made COBRAcable available to the market. The high-voltage DC cable with a length of about 325km and a capacity of 700MW is the first direct connection between the electricity markets of Denmark and the Netherlands. The basic idea behind COBRAcable is to compensate for the volatility of wind power. Consequently, the Netherlands imports electricity via the cable on days with large Danish wind power generation, while on days with little wind in Denmark the electricity is transported in the opposite direction.

This works perfectly, as the interconnector’s transmission data from the first six-month period prove: In total, Denmark has imported almost 700GWh via the COBRAcable and the Netherlands almost 1,400GWh. On average, COBRAcable was operated at full capacity 79% of the time during the last half year. The impressive traffic on this binational connection proves its adequacy through its operation. The new interconnector therefore substantially contributes to the energy transition by exchanging volatile renewable energy across borders and additionally creates a trading profit on the spot market for electricity – a multiple benefit for nature, society and the companies involved.

The transmission data from the COBRAcable of Energinet and TenneT confirm a high level of traffic on the line (picture: screenshot taken from Energinet-video “Constructing the green COBRAcable”, Vimeo)

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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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“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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BorWin3 operation handed over to TenneT

14.02.2020

The offshore grid connection BorWin3 in the German Bight near the island of Borkum has been operational since August 2019. The twelfth offshore grid connection project of TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), extends TenneT’s transmission capacity for offshore wind farms in the German North Sea by a further 900MW, so that the total capacity already amounts to 7.132GW – and since the German government’s expansion targets for wind energy in the North Sea by 2020 are only 6.5GW, the TSO has clearly exceeded them.

After several weeks of trial operation, BorWin3 has now been handed over to TenneT by the general contractors. The consortium of Siemens and Petrofac was responsible for the construction, transport, installation and commissioning of the two BorWin3 converters (offshore and onshore). The transfer of operations represents a further major contribution to the energy transition in Germany and Europe.

At the same time, TenneT is pursuing ambitious goals for its Dutch offshore projects. The TSO is planning on a large scale, as the Dutch government has set a target in its “Offshore Wind Roadmap 2030” to reach a cumulative offshore wind capacity of 11.5GW by 2030, so that 40% of the Dutch electricity demand will then come from offshore wind farms. In the IJmuiden Ver wind energy area, off the coast of the region of North Holland, the company intends to implement two 2GW offshore grid connections to complement the eight 0.7GW AC grid connections already planned in the Dutch North Sea. As there is currently no 2GW grid connection, a new platform design and a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system that enables increased power transmission are required.

Furthermore, given the long distance to the coast and the size of the IJmuiden Ver wind energy area, a 2GW HVDC solution based on 525kV seems to be the most economically solution. It requires only one cable system per 2GW, which limits the impact on the environment and surroundings. The technology is by no means fundamentally new to TenneT. The TSO can draw on its extensive HVDC experience with offshore grid connections in Germany and with interconnectors. TenneT also uses the 525kV level for NordLink, the new offshore connection between Germany and Norway.

To implement such an innovative DC system, TenneT has initiated the design phase with five HVDC suppliers based on an innovation partnership. These suppliers will develop the advanced 2GW-525kV HVDC solution based on the criteria defined by the company and the technical capabilities of the partners.

The operation of BorWin3 was handed over to TenneT (picture of the offshore converter platform BorWin gamma: TenneT)

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Ostwind 1 in regular operation

14.02.2020

In April 2019, the Arkona wind farm in the “Westlich Adlergrund” cluster in the Baltic Sea near the German island of Rügen was commisioned, giving the go-ahead for full operation of the Ostwind 1 grid connection of TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, the transmission system operator (TSO) from northeast Germany. Ostwind 1 is the first grid connection in the Baltic Sea with 220kV three-phase current technology, which enables a higher transmission capacity.

Now Ostwind 1 has gone into regular operation and the two connected wind farms, besides Arkona also the Viking wind farm, have been successfully connected to the onshore grid on schedule. But 50Hertz considers this success no cause to rest on its laurels, for the expansion of offshore wind energy must continue if the energy transition is to succeed. This is why the TSO has already made good progress with the follow-up project Ostwind 2.

For instance, 50Hertz has long since begun preparations for the construction of three submarine cable systems for the Ostwind 2 project. For the land section, the 12 nautical mile zone of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and an approximately 5km-long section in the exclusive economic zone, the building permits have already been issued. 50Hertz has set up a new website for the Ostwind 2 project, where further information can be found.

Ostwind 1 grid connection of 50Hertz in the Baltic Sea has gone into regular operation (picture of Arkona wind farm: Ein Dahmer / CC BY-SA 4.0)

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Redispatch with renewable energy systems in practical test

12.02.2020

In Germany, redispatch measures for the eliminations of bottlenecks within the transmission grid are currently limited to conventional power generation plants. An amendment to the German Energy Industry Act with effect from 1 October 2021 allows renewable-energy facilities to be deployed for redispatch measures. These new regulations will strengthen the role of renewables in the maintenance of electricity system security. The task now is to ensure balance sheet handling for such redispatch measures and to develop a mode for the financial settlement of the interventions.

For this reason, TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, the transmission system operator (TSO) from north-east Germany, has entered into an agreement with the Norwegian energy company Statkraft, Europe’s largest producer of renewable energy, to jointly test redispatch with renewable energy systems in practice. The key objective of these practical tests is being able to calculate the necessary effort for redispatch measures with renewable energy systems. 50Hertz accesses wind farms marketed by Statkraft in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania that are directly connected to the TSO’s transmission grid or to a regional distribution grid. 50Hertz and Statkraft want to test demand variants for the wind farms to allow the legal requirements to be implemented efficiently and safely with this new form of redispatch.

Dr Dirk Biermann, Managing Director Markets and Systems Operation at 50Hertz, explains that due to the new legal regulations, TSOs will in future have various options for the demand of redispatch for plants in the distribution grid. Dr Biermann comments on the forthcoming practice tests: “Demand via the distribution system operator is just as possible as direct demand by 50Hertz. Our aim is to identify the most efficient way. We hope that the field test will provide us with important insights in this regard.”

50Hertz and Statkraft have agreed to jointly test redispatch with renewable energy systems in practice

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