Improving biodiversity for submarine cabling

15.10.2020

Looking at the big picture – the energy transition and the achievement of the European climate targets – there is no alternative to expanding offshore capacity for the generation and transmission of North Sea wind power. For that reason, both the Dutch and German governments have set ambitious targets for offshore expansion, which the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is gradually implementing and has even exceeded for its German North Sea control area. In the individual case, however, each offshore construction and operational measure obviously has an impact on the valuable North Sea and Wadden Sea ecosystems. As TenneT strives to apply and monitor nature-friendly solutions in all of its offshore grid projects, the TSO is now conducting pilot tests with stone coverings of submarine cable intersections.

When the TSCNET shareholder lays submarine cables, e.g. currently for the high-voltage connection of the Hollandse Kust (zuid) wind region, the cables sometimes cross with existing oil and gas pipelines. In such cases, the cables protrude above the seabed and are usually covered with a layer of granite to protect them. To replace granite with alternative solutions that promote biodiversity, TenneT has launched a pilot project in collaboration with the offshore specialist company Van Oord. In this project, different types of stones are deposited at cable crossings to investigate which of these stimulates biodiversity best. In total, the pilot involves twelve locations in the North Sea. In the case of the first six, recently laid submarine cables already cross existing oil and gas pipelines. Another six intersections will follow during the construction of the Hollandse Kust (Zuid) connection in 2021.

On 14 October, the different stones were loaded onto Van Oord’s special vessel to be placed at the cable intersections in the coming weeks. Among them are small calciferous stones from a marble quarry, which are placed at three of the six cable intersections. Comparison with the other three intersections without calciferous stones will allow to assess the difference in the type of marine life developing at these intersections. “Our expectation is that the calciferous stones will ensure that various benthic species will find it easier to nest here and that a different habitat will emerge at these sites. Over the years, ‛artificial reefs’ can emerge at these sites in the North Sea, where plants and small creatures can settle,” explains Saskia Jaarsma, Head Offshore Developments and Large Projects Offshore at TenneT.

TenneT has launched a pilot project to promote biodiversity at submarine cable intersections (picture: Van Oord)

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> See TenneT press release (html)

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Successful trial run for Equigy

09.09.2020

Fluctuations in the transmission grid are an emerging concern for European transmission system operators (TSOs) as volatile renewable generation gains in importance with the energy transition and more and more large scale power plants that stabilise the grid are being decommissioned – resulting in a considerable loss of reactive power. TSOs need to take remedial action involving intelligent technologies and supported by small, decentralised energy sources to keep production and consumption in balance. One such solution for the provision of primary control energy is the crowd balancing platform Equigy launched by the Swiss TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid in cooperation with further TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, and the Italian TSO Terna.

Kick-off for Equigy was in April 2020 and the objective is a new European standard allowing the participating – and possibly more – TSOs to collaborate for promotion and improvement of the renewable energy market. The innovative platform is based on blockchain technology and the Internet of Things to enable the integration of small, decentralised units such as home battery storage systems, photovoltaic systems, small-scale hydropower systems, heat pumps or even electric cars into the balancing energy market. The pilot project now has reached its first milestone: Together with Alpiq, a Swiss energy services provider and electricity producer, Swissgrid has successfully tested the process of calling up primary control power through the balancing platform. The test employed a 1.2MW battery as a flexible energy resource. Alpiq has assumed the role of commercial aggregator, linking the technical aggregator, which controls the controllable resources, with Swissgrid.

In particular, the call-up of primary control energy included the registration of flexible resources, submission of offers and awarding of bids, as well as real-time monitoring of data exchange between Alpiq and Swissgrid. The test has proven that a blockchain can support the process of providing primary control power and that aggregators or storage owners with backend systems can integrate the blockchain interfaces. The Equigy trial run has clearly indicated the potential of blockchain solutions for the future support of business processes in the field of primary control energy – this is a fundamental finding and a significant step forward. The next steps concern the evaluation of possible business models among the participating partners.

The blockchain-based crowd balancing platform Equigy by Swissgrid, TenneT, and Terna passed trial run

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> See Swissgrid news release (html)
> Visit Equigy website (html)

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Study on the operation of power grids at higher voltages

26.08.2020

In many regions of Europe, the expansion of the transmission and distribution networks is not up to the pace of the energy transition, which is why the existing grids must be utilised as effectively as possible for the restructuring of the energy system. Such increased utilisation may also include operation at higher voltage levels. To learn more about this, the German Association for Electrical Engineering, Electronics, and Information Technology (VDE – Verband der Elektrotechnik, Elektronik und Informationstechnik) – one of Europe’s largest technical-scientific associations with corporate and institutional members – has commissioned a study on this topic, entitled “Spannungsfestigkeit” (“Dielectric strength”). The findings of the now published study are intended to be incorporated into the European Network Codes and regulations.

The central result of the study is that grid facilities such as overhead lines, switchgears, and transformers can be operated for short periods at a voltage above their usual rated voltage. Operating equipment is actually designed for a certain maximum voltage, i.e. with this voltage it can be operated permanently, and the intended service life is achieved. The study reveals the conditions under which equipment in distribution and transmission systems can temporarily manage higher voltages that exceed the voltage levels and durations as well as their frequencies specified in the relevant standards.

However, it is important to limit the duration and frequency of higher voltage operation. If a device with a rated voltage of 420kV is operated continuously at a voltage above 420kV, its service life can be shortened by up to 50%. According to the study, special effects must be considered for individual operating equipment. Transformers and chokes, for example, can generate higher noise levels, and voltage converters may generate stationary relaxation oscillations. VDE recommends that network providers such as transmission system operators (TSOs) examine their own equipment for reserves and functionality at increased operating voltage.

VDE has published a study on the operation of grids and network systems at higher voltage levels

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> See VDE press release, in German (html)

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Competence Centre for Cognitive Energy Systems

10.08.2020

Those involved in the European energy sector are experiencing it with increasing intensity: The transition from centralised power plants based on fossil fuels towards a renewable energy system is a highly complex process that can only be mastered by intelligent control. Thus, it is generally recognised that a decentralised energy system requires artificial intelligence (AI). In the energy industry, AI has so far mainly been used for monitoring or forecasting tasks. However, as the share of electricity generated from renewable energies grows, it is evident that AI will in future also control the processes of the energy system on a large scale.

To explore new fields of AI applications in the energy industry, a Competence Centre for Cognitive Energy Systems (K-ES) has been established at the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Energy System Technology (Fraunhofer IEE) in Kassel in the German state of Hesse. Fraunhofer IEE is a public research institution for solutions to secure the energy supply despite volatile generation, ensure grid stability, and make the energy transition a success. The new research centre is generously funded and seeking partners from the industry to combine the expertise of researchers with those of business experts. Transmission system operators (TSOs) play a key role in this respect, as the transmission infrastructure is a crucial factor in providing the required flexibility for decentral, small-scale, and volatile electricity generation from renewable facilities.

“A decentralised system can only function via digital processes in real time and automated decisions,” explains Prof. Dr. Clemens Hoffmann, Director of Fraunhofer IEE. In the grid segment, AI is already being used today to evaluate information, identify critical situations, and support their resolution – which is the primary area of responsibility of Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) such as the Munich-based TSCNET Services. The next step is to extend the range of applications. The K-ES examines the energy system from the AI perspective to advance AI deployment in the three areas of Cognitive Energy Economics, Cognitive Energy Networks, and Cognitive Energy System Technology. On 8 September 2020, Fraunhofer IEE will host a Web Expert Session, an online presentation of the K-ES with a discussion of cooperation possibilities.

The German research institution Fraunhofer IEE has established a Competence Centre for Cognitive Energy Systems to promote AI in the energy industry (illustration using graphics by Fraunhofer IEE)

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> See Fraunhofer IEE press release, in German (html)
> Visit K-ES website, in German (html)
> Visit Expert Session website, in German (html) with registration option

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Amprion: “Smart Valve” for flexible power flow control

05.08.2020

To maintain the stability of the transmission grid despite the current increase in decentralised and volatile generation, the German transmission system operator (TSO) Amprion – like many other TSCNET shareholders – is already using a wide range of innovative technologies, for instance Phase-shifting transformers (PSTs) or reactive power compensation systems such as Statcom. A promising pilot project has now additionally been launched, for which Amprion has signed a cooperation agreement with the US Silicon Valley company, Smart Wires. In the three-phase project, the mobile modular static-synchronous series compensator (mSSSC) developed by Smart Wires, the so called SmartValve, will be deployed in the Amprion grid.

The aim of the project is both to increase the transmission capacity of Amprion’s transmission grid and to maintain its high level of system stability. SmartValve is designed for a more balanced and thus more efficient use of power lines. By actively changing the power flows, it enables better control of the transmission system and minimises redispatch. Due to its modular structure, SmartValve is easy to transport and can be operated flexibly at different locations. This distinguishes the new technology from conventional PSTs, for example, making it an ideal complement to support the system from a stability perspective.

Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, CTO at Amprion, refers in this context to the significantly increased costs for redispatch in Germany in recent years due to the changes in the energy landscape. This is where the SmartValve project comes in: “We see this innovative technology as having the potential to allow us to use the network more efficiently and reduce the need for redispatch.” The two partners expect the project to span two to three years to verify the added value of the new technology in the Amprion grid.

Amprion and Smart Wires launched a pilot project to implement the SmartValve solution in the transmission grid (picture: Smart Wires)

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> See Amprion press release (html)

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Awards for ELES smart grid projects

30.07.2020

The International Smart Grids Action Network (ISGAN) is a technology cooperation programme on smart grids by the International Energy Agency (IEA). ISGAN provides a strategic platform to raise awareness and to stimulate action by high level governments for accelerated development and deployment of smart and clean electricity grids around the world. ISGAN initiatives include the annual ISGAN Award of Excellence in “Digitalization Enabling Consumer Empowerment”. On 28 July, the jury announced the winners of the 6th ISGAN Award, which focuses on digitisation at global level and for which nominations have been received from around the world. The first and second prizes were awarded to two projects in which TSCNET shareholder ELES, the Slovenian transmission system operator (TSO), is significantly involved.

The first place goes to the NEDO project, a Japanese-Slovenian initiative whose main partners, besides ELES, are the Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) and the multinational conglomerate Hitachi. The NEDO project introduces integrated and centrally managed cloud-based solutions to make better use of the existing network and provide customers with a higher quality electricity supply and the opportunity to actively participate in electricity markets and systemic services. ELES decided at the end of 2015 to participate in the project, whose main responsible partner, the namesake agency NEDO, received the award on behalf of the consortium.

The award for FutureFlow, which took second place, was received by ELES itself. The international project was conceived by ELES experts and involves twelve partners from eight European countries. The project implements innovative e-trading solutions for smart cross-border balancing and redispatching in the control areas of four central and southern European TSOs, which are all shareholders of TSCNET. Besides the project leader ELES, the other TSO participants are APG from Austria, MAVIR from Hungary, and Transelectrica from Romania. FutureFlow was launched in 2016 and successfully concluded in December 2019. Pilot tests in real time have proven that also small businesses and power generation units can be a reliable source of flexibility to maintain the balance in the electricity system. The project was funded by the EU under the Horizon 2020 programme, in fact, it was the largest research project financed under Horizon 2020.

The ISGAN Award 2020 is exceptional in that it is the first time that one company receives two awards. After the announcement, the CEO of ELES, Aleksander Mervar, commented that with these two awards, ELES has obtained great international recognition for its activities in the field of innovation and development of smart networks. Mr Mervar complimented the partners in both consortia. By dedicating the two awards to all those who participated in both projects, he acknowledged their outstanding performance.

ELES received two ISGAN Awards 2020 for the smart grid initiatives FutureFlow and NEDO Project (picture: ELES)

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> See ELES press release (html)
> Visit ISGAN Award 2020 website (html)

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TenneT records 21% increase in offshore transmission

28.07.2020

In the first half of 2020, the wind energy transmitted from the North Sea ashore by the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT rose to 11.51TWh. This represents an increase of 21.1% compared with the 9.51TWh in the first half of 2019, bringing the North Sea’s share of total wind power generation in Germany to 15.6%. The maximum feed-in volume from offshore wind farms in the German North Sea was 6,035MW on 2 January 2020. By 30 June, the generation capacity of the German North Sea wind farms reached 6,679MW, a volume which is exceeded by TenneT’s offshore transmission capacity of 7,132MW. This amount, which is higher than the German government’s 2020 target (6.5GW for the North and Baltic Seas combined), is currently being achieved with twelve German offshore grid connections.

Tim Meyerjürgens, COO of the TSCNET shareholder, comments on the impressive figures: „The expansion and integration of offshore wind energy is of central importance for the European energy transition.” And offshore development is also keeping pace in the Dutch market: “With Borssele alpha and – from mid-August – Borssele beta, we have now also successfully completed the first two offshore connections in the Dutch North Sea.” TenneT promotes capacity expansion with technical innovations and, according to Meyerjürgens, wants to remain a driving force in the offshore sector: “Ever since TenneT set the standard for plastic-insulated DC cables at 320kV in the offshore sector around ten years ago, we have been defining a new global benchmark for the future with our 525kV DC subsea cable system and its transmission capacity of two GW.”

The 525kV development programme should lead to a standardised cable system that the TSO can employ by 2030 for the three German North Sea projects BalWin1, BalWin2, BalWin3 and the two Dutch projects IJmuiden Ver alpha and beta as well as in potential further projects of equal power and voltage. TenneT is expecting lower costs, greater security of supply and less impact on the environment. These efforts require considerable investment: “We have an investment programme of around €20bn earmarked for connecting offshore wind energy in the Netherlands and Germany by 2030,” explains Meyerjürgens. Important in this context are also hydrogen and hybrid initiatives. The North Sea Wind Power Hubs proposed by TenneT explicitly include power to gas concepts. Furthermore, in June, TenneT proposed to the EU and the Dutch and German governments an integrated energy system approach for the international offshore development.

TenneT increased its transmission of offshore wind energy by 21% in the first half of 2020 (picture: TenneT)

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Smart control of heat pumps – HeatFlex expands

08.07.2020

Launched in the summer of 2018, the HeatFlex research project aims to exploit the potential for grid stabilisation that small and decentralised consumer devices can offer – if actively involved in the stabilising process. The founding project members are TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and the southern German distribution system operator (DSO) Bayernwerk Netz. Following the successful cooperation and positive test results, TenneT and Bayernwerk Netz are now expanding the project. The grid operators are pleased to welcome three new project partners: the DSO Regensburg Netz as well as the public utilities Stadtwerk Haßfurt and SWW Wunsiedel.

With HeatFlex, TenneT and Bayernwerk are jointly researching the most effective integration of decentralised devices – such as electric storage heaters, heat pumps, and water heaters – into grid balancing. These flexible capacities are intended to avoid cost-intensive interventions by the TSO in the case of future grid bottlenecks. Since November 2019, the project partners have already been implementing the first concrete measures based on HeatFlex results: The heat pumps and direct heating systems connected to Bayernwerk Netz are being intelligently controlled for bottleneck prevention. Decentralised heating systems are thus partially taking over the stabilising function of fossil plants. Using ripple control technology already in place, no additional investments are required.

The increase in partners should serve to make intelligent use of even more local flexibility and to investigate further controllable, decentralised consumption units and alternative applications. The ultimate aims of HeatFlex are cost savings, reduction of grid extension, and the acceleration of the energy transition without jeopardising system security. “The intelligent control of the smallest, decentralised electricity consumption units is a small but essential element,” explains TenneT Managing Director Tim Meyerjürgens, “because the many pieces of the puzzle together make up the overall picture of the energy transition”.

The research project HeatFlex is extended with three additional partners (picture: Stiebel Eltron)

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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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RDI Roadmap and TYNDP 2020: consultation and webinars

30.06.2020

The Ten-Year Network Development Plans (TYNDPs) are biennial publications of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and for Gas (ENTSOG). The TYNDPs are considered by the European Commission (EC) when selecting Projects of Common Interest (PCIs). ENTSO-E and ENTSOG are obliged to develop scenarios for the TYNDPs, and in the case of TYNDP 2020, the two organisations have worked together on these scenarios for the second time. The scenarios should not only identify the future demand for electricity and gas infrastructures and projects, but also survey and assess the interactions in a hybrid energy system between the gas and electricity sectors.

The ENTSOs now have presented the final version of the scenarios. The supply and demand data collected by the member transmission system operators (TSOs) for gas and electricity are used to create the central “National Trends” scenario, which reflects the national energy and climate plans of individual member states and recognises the EU climate targets. The “Global Ambition” and “Distributed Energy” scenarios are designed as comprehensive energy scenarios in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. They also consider the EU-27 efforts to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. Laurent Schmitt, Secretary General of ENTSO-E, defines these scenarios as “a comprehensive, reliable and contrasted set of possible energy futures that will allow ENTSO-E and ENTSOG to perform a sound assessment of European infrastructure projects in the TYNDPs”.

There is another ENTSO-E project related to the European Green Deal and its goal of climate neutrality by 2050, and that is the Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) Roadmap 2020-2030. In line with the requirements of the EU Clean Energy Package, the RDI Roadmap combines the opportunities offered by technological trends, the needs of TSOs related to grid operation and market development, and the input from the policy objectives of the EC and other stakeholders.

The Roadmap identifies three major areas for RDI – Integrated Systems, Power Grid, and Cyber Physical System – and six European innovation flagships addressing them: cross-sector integration, deep electrification, grid use and development for a pan-EU market, large-scale offshore wind energy integration, secure operation of a widespread hybrid AC/DC grid, and control centre operations and interoperability. It is understood that TSOs in the electricity sector act as catalysts for committed and flexible innovation strategies and that they have already demonstrated their determination to coordinate individual efforts to implement the Green Deal and related policies.

The ENTSO-E RDI Roadmap 2020-2030 is open for consultation until 10 August and will then be submitted to the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) for its opinion. ENTSO-E will organise webinars on both, Roadmap and TYNDP Scenarios, on 2 July and 3 July, respectively.

ENTSO-E has opened a consultation on the RDI Roadmap 2020-2030 and is organising webinars on the Roadmap as well as on the TYNDP 2020 Scenarios (picture: ENTSO-E)

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> See ENTSO-E press release on TYNDP Scenarios (html)
> See ENTSO-E press release on RDI Roadmap (html)
> Visit TYNDP 2020 Scenario website (html)
> Open TYNDP 2020 Scenario Report (pdf, 7.28MB)
> Open RDI Roadmap (pdf, 4.83MB)
> Access to RDI Roadmap consultation (html)
> Register for Scenario webinar (html)
> Register for Roadmap webinar (html)

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Virtual InnoGrid focuses on Green Deal

19.06.2020

Grid innovators usually meet once a year in Brussels to participate in InnoGrid2020+, the European event for research, development, and innovation (RDI) in the field of power transmission. Despite the continued commitment of the European transmission system operators (TSOs) to RDI and the energy transition during the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s Innogrid2020+ must be conducted virtually. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and the European Distribution System Operators’ association (EDSO) have thus organised two InnoGrid webinars to showcase the latest innovations and to present some of the key research and development projects in Europe. The first webinar, attended by 350 people, took place on 18 June, and the second will follow on 30 June (11-13 CET).

The motto of the online events is: “Why power networks innovation is key for bringing the European Green Deal from promise to practice”. The first webinar provided ideas and projects that help to make the Green Deal a reality, especially by facilitating the integration of renewable energies. In addition to technical approaches and projects, political and regulatory framework conditions were also discussed. In his assessment of the development from an ENTSO-E perspective, Uroš Salobir, Director of the Strategic Innovation Department at TSCNET shareholder ELES, the Slovenian TSO, and ENTSO-E Vice Chair of the RDI Committee, commented: “The future energy system will be a system of interconnected systems, with deeper electrification and smart sector integration. In this future, electricity becomes a dominant vector and system operators, key facilitators.” On behalf of European TSOs, Mr Salobir concluded: “We stand ready to support the European green recovery especially through innovation and developing the cyber-physical system.”

Reservations for the second session on 30 June are still welcome. Among other topics, Michela Marasco, Policy Officer-DG Energy at the European Commission, will speak on the RDI dimension of the Green Deal. Jan Kostevc, Infrastructure Regulation Officer at the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), will focus on innovations from the efficiency perspective and Hakon Borgen, Chair of the ENTSO-E RDI Committee, will present the ENTSO-E RDI Roadmap 2020-2030.

This year’s InnoGrid2020+ on the relevance of grid innovation for the European Green Deal is held as a webinar 

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> See ENTSO-E press release (html)
> See Innogrid2020+ website, with access to registration and presentations (html)

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