Coupling of renewables and PtG for climate targets

11.12.2018

In order to achieve ambitious climate targets, a rapid expansion of renewable energy generation is essential. The German market still has great offshore potential in this respect. However, regenerative expansion makes no sense if the corresponding transport or storage capacities are lacking. TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), is already known for its sustained efforts to significantly expand the transmission infrastructure in its control area as environmentally friendly as possible. But the TSO is also very active in the development of storage concepts, just consider, for example, the storage potential of the North Sea Wind Power Hub project or the “ELEMENT ONE” power-to-gas (PtG) pilot plant.

Together with Siemens and Shell, both global players in their respective fields, Tennet is now making additional efforts to promote the renewables as well as PtG. The three companies are convinced that green hydrogen will play a decisive role in the future energy mix as the basis for many power-to-X applications, which are technologies for storage and other uses of surplus electricity. TenneT, Siemens and Shell have thus commissioned a study on a new type of tender model for offshore wind capacity. This model intends to link the awarding of contracts for the operation of offshore plants to the production of hydrogen: The additional wind power from such facilities should not put too much strain on the onshore grid, but rather be used to generate hydrogen and even stablise the electricity grid. The green hydrogen can be transported via the gas grid and then be used in other sectors, such as industry or mobility.

Lex Hartman, Managing Director of TenneT, is determined to not squander any potential for renewable energies and convinced that PtG technologies provide flexibility, reduce the strain on the grid and make power supply more secure. “In the long term,” Mr Hartman continues, “the combination with hydrogen production can also be applied throughout Germany to other renewable energies. This advances the energy transition and helps to achieve our climate targets.”

TenneT, in cooperation with Siemens and Shell, proposes to couple offshore wind capacity tenders with PtG storage technologies (copyright photo composition by Stadtwerke Mainz)

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SIREN project successfully concluded

03.12.2018

After a term of three years, the Croatian research project “Smart Integration of RENewables” (in short: SIREN) has been brought to a satisfactory completion by the project partners, one of whom is TSCNET shareholder HOPS, the transmission system operator (TSO) from Croatia. Together with the Croatian Science Foundation, HOPS was also the funder of the scientific research on the optimisation of current and the development of new system management strategies for the large-scale integration of volatile electricity capacities from renewable sources.

An assessment of the capacity of the transmission grid and the production units was carried out in order to determine flexibility requirements. As second part of the project, the potentials of energy storage units in the transmission system – e.g. pumped-storage power plants, battery systems or flywheels – were evaluated. Finally, also regulatory aspects of the large-scale integration of storage solutions were subject of the research.

Notwithstanding the successful and timely development of solution models and implementation propositions, HOPS will by no means cease its activities in this future-oriented sector. The H2020 project within the CROSSBOW project (“CROSS BOrder management of variable renewable energies and storage units enabling a transnational Wholesale market”), in which HOPS is actively involved, is a kind of continuation of SIREN. The multi-partner project CROSSBOW with a focus on Southeast Europe was launched in November 2018 in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, with HOPS presiding over one subproject and one working package.

The SIREN project on the integration of the renewables and grid optimisation has been successfully completed

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> See HOPS press release, in Croatian (html)
> Visit SIREN website (html)

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WindNODE flexibility platform in trial operation

21.11.2018

The energy transition results in a rapidly growing share of volatile electricity volumes from renewable energy generation. The participants in the energy market are thus faced with new and challenging tasks that go beyond the mere safe operation of electricity grids. Optimum capacity utilisation and maximum use of renewable, weather-dependent energy instead of the throttling of sustainable plants are key requirements of today’s market. The TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), meets the new challenges through the systematic use of flexibility.

A single example from 2017 shows the extent of today’s throttling measures: 641GWh of renewable power generation were throttled in the 50Hertz control area for grid stability reasons. In order to use otherwise lost energy, more than 70 partners from all over East Germany are working on the WindNODE project promoted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. A central component of the project is the flexibility platform, a digital procurement system that is designed to reduce the throttling of wind turbines in the event of grid bottlenecks. Via the platform, regional generators, consumers and storage operators offer TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs) flexible use of their facilities. TSOs and DSOs cooperate closely in the project.

The flexibility platform has now gone into test operation after almost two years of developing. The intention is to balance the load distribution of volatile generation quantities and to integrate them optimally into the system. By connecting or disconnecting flexible loads – for example industrial production facilities – the power consumption at appropriate grid nodes is regulated in such a way that bottlenecks and thus the throttling of wind energy are prevented and maximum use of green electricity is facilitated.

Dr. Dirk Biermann, Chief Markets & System Operations Officer at 50Hertz, emphasises the importance of both, more efficient use of the existing grid and grid extension, to achieve the German government’s renewable share targets. “We need to get into Power-to-X applications and the systematic use of flexibility. This is why the WindNODE platform comes at the right time and can help to effectively use regeneratively generated ‘excess electricity’ instead of throttling it.”

The WindNODE flexibility platform for effective use of renewable energy and congestion management in east Germany has been put into trial operation

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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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TransnetBW pilot on eco-efficient insulating gas

06.11.2018

At its substation in Obermooweiler near the historic city of Wangen im Allgäu and north-east of Lake Constance, TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), is planning nothing less than the world’s first gas-insulated switchgear at extra-high voltage level employing alternative and climate-friendly gas technology. The objective is to apply for the first time in practice an innovative type of insulating gas whose greenhouse effect is more than 99 percent lower than that of the currently used sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and which is equal to or lower than that of CO2.

There are obvious reasons why SF6 has been the industry standard as insulating gas in high-voltage systems for decades: It has excellent electrical properties, is non-toxic and chemically very stable. However, SF6 suffers from a strong greenhouse effect. For climate protection reasons, TransnetBW is thus looking for eco-efficient alternatives. The TSO’s research project aims to provide new insights into the use of an environmentally friendly alternative gas mixture in gas-insulated 380kV switchgears. TransnetBW’s partner in the project, the engineering company ABB, has experiences in the use of alternative insulating gases for switchgears in distribution grids at lower voltage levels. This expertise will now be jointly transferred to the 380kV level.

“The transmission grid integrates renewable energies and is a key element in implementing the energy transition. We also want to promote new solutions for more climate and environmental protection in the design of our grid infrastructure,” explains Dr. Werner Götz, CEO of TransnetBW. The first preparatory construction measures for the new facility are planned for March 2019. As early as 2021, the new switchgear will be connected in a first implementing step. This means an initial SF6 saving of around 55 percent. In the following second step, the existing installation will be converted. From 2026, the entire system will be SF6-free.

TransnetBW has started a research pilot for the use of climate-friendly insulating gas in gas-insulated switchgears at 380kV level (picture based on screenshots taken from video “ABB commissions world’s first switchgear installation with new eco efficient gas”; ABB, YouTube)

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)
> See ABB press release (html)

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Swissgrid pursues Strategy 2022

01.11.2018

The Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, rightly considers itself as the backbone of supply security in Switzerland. In order to underpin this status in the future and to further increase the company’s efficiency and professionalism, Swissgrid designed the Strategy 2022. This entails corporate restructuring and new business unit developments as of 1 January 2019, especially in regard to system operation, asset management as well as development and digitisation.

To achieve the long-term goals in accordance with the TSO’s overarching Energy Strategy 2050, Swissgrid has defined four well-considered priority areas in which measures are to be implemented by 2022: “Safety for people, systems and the environment”, “Integrated plant and system operations”, “Intelligent use of new technologies” and “Close cooperation with partners in Switzerland and Europe”. Within these benchmarks, the main structural changes are the establishment of three newly designed operational divisions, namely the Market Business Unit, Grid Infrastructure, and a Research & Digitalisation team.

The new Market Business Unit allows integrated system operation by combining market and grid operation. The future task distribution within this unit ensures compatibility with the harmonised European network codes for cross-border electricity exchange. Secondly, Grid Infrastructure will focus exclusively on asset management, thereby significantly increasing the tasks and capacities for grid maintenance, extension and modernisation. Finally, the Research & Digitalisation team integrates all of Swissgrid’s applied research and development activities, which were previously spread across business units. This should promote innovation particularly in the areas of automation and digitisation.

Swissgrid reorganises its corporate structure by implementing the new Strategy 2022 (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid media release (html)

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DEFENDER workshop hosted by Eles

02.10.2018

The European project DEFENDER for the protection of Critical Energy Infrastructures (CEI) comprises 18 partners from the entire spectrum of the energy industry as well as research institutions, public authorities, consulting companies, engineering offices, or software developers. The consortium’s only transmission system operator (TSO) is TSCNET shareholder ELES from Slovenia. On 18 September, Eles hosted a DEFENDER workshop in which experts from the Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia’s largest research institution, the Institute of Corporate Security Studies (ICS) Ljubljana, and the German RWTH Aachen University discussed possible threats to transmission and communication systems.

Representatives of the RWTH introduced their tools and methods for emergency response. Part of the presentation was the CPSS Co-Simulator, the main purpose of which is to analyse cyber, physical and human impacts and threats on the critical energy infrastructure, identify the most likely attack on the vulnerable parts of the network, and the possible consequences of such an attack. Eles in turn presented the topology of its transmission and telecommunications network. In the second phase of the DEFENDER project, the RWTH experts are expected to provide concrete analyses of critical points in the Slovenian TSO network that could pose serious risks to the overall system.

ELES hosted a DEFENDER project workshop on threats to and defence of transmission and communication systems (picture: ELES)

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> Visit DEFENDER website (html)

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Wind data for smart grid control

25.09.2018

The volatility associated with the generation of renewable energy is a well-known side effect of the energy transition, which has not made it any easier for transmission system operators (TSOs) to constantly maintain grid stability and supply security. The adaptation of the transmission grid to the requirements of the new energy landscape is progressing more slowly than the expansion of renewable energies themselves and grid overloads are therefore a common consequence. In such cases, renewable power generation must be throttled, resulting in the loss of valuable (and green) energy capacities.

In order to avoid this and also to reduce costly interventions, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, and Statkraft, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, are investigating in a joint pilot project how the grid can be better and smarter controlled. Specifically, the two partners want to find out how TenneT can progressively exploit the feed-in forecasts of Statkraft’s northern German wind farms for intelligent grid control. The data obtained improves the calculation of grid utilisation and thus enables the TSO to identify and eliminate possible congestions at an early stage. In a second step, the direct control of wind turbines by TenneT will be tested in order to relieve grid bottlenecks.

“Every day we eliminate bottlenecks in the power grid with hundreds of interventions in conventional and renewable generation. To ensure that we only intervene as much as necessary, it is important for us to have direct access to wind turbines so that we can control them in bottleneck situations,” explains Lex Hartman, executive board member at TenneT. The smart grid initiative of TenneT and Statkraft is part of the consortium project “NEW 4.0 ‒ Norddeutsche EnergieWende” (“Northern German Energy Transition”) funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic affairs and Energy as part of the promotion programme “Schaufenster intelligente Energie ‒ Digitale Energiewende” (“Showcase Intelligent Energy – Digital Energy Transition”).

TenneT cooperates with the energy group Statkraft on a pilot project for smart grid control utilising wind data

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Dutch research on decentral balance maintenance

05.09.2018

The continuous maintenance of the balance in the electrical transmission grid between customer demand and supply is one of the core tasks of any transmission system operator (TSO). In order to further improve performance in this respect and to make balance maintenance more decentralised, TSCNET shareholder TenneT wants to explore possibilities to offer local electricity generation and regulating capacities. Decentral maintenance methods appear to be an appropriate response to an increasingly volatile and decentral energy generation. For this reason, the Dutch-German TSO has launched a pilot research project on the enhanced and decentral use of automatic Frequency Restoration Reserves (aFRR) within the Dutch transmission system.

TenneT is cooperating with seven partners from the energy sector on this project, which is a follow-up to a previous collaboration with the Dutch green energy supplier Vandebron on the employment of e-car batteries for grid control measures. With six additional partners, the field of investigation is now being expanded to also include wind and solar energy, combined heat and power generation, heating grids, electric boilers as well as electric pumps. This provides the research with the broadest possible spectrum of technologies and the widest scope of possible applications.

The pilot project derives its significance from the fact that currently the use of alternative energies in the aFRR market is not always possible due to inadequate specifications and technologies. TenneT aims to explore and, as far as possible, remove the technical hurdles in order to facilitate the use of regulating capacities from decentralised and sustainable sources.

TenneT launches pilot research project on the decentralised use of automatic Frequency Restoration Reserves for balance maintenance (illustration based on pictures from TenneT)

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TSO-DSO cooperation on flexible grid management

18.07.2018

Volatile and decentral energy generation is not only a concomitant of the energy transition, but also an evident risk for grid stability. Paving the way to a low-carbon energy future while ensuring the security of electricity supply is the current key challenge for many European transmission system operators (TSOs) such as the Dutch-German TSCNET shareholder TenneT, which is intensively involved in research on flexible grid management and smart grid solutions. The most recent example is “HeatFlex”, a joint project with the southern German distribution system operator (DSO) Bayernwerk Netz GmbH.

By mid-2019, the “HeatFlex” partners will explore to what extent the more than 170,000 existing controllable consumption devices in the area of the DSO can be used to increase the flexibility of the entire transmission system. These controllable devices ‒ for example, electric storage heaters, heat pumps or water heaters ‒ can be integrated into the grid management by means of ripple control utilising the already installed ripple control receivers.

“HeatFlex” is part of TenneT’s extensive digitisation program and the company’s strategy to actively and cost-efficiently involve smaller and decentralised flexibilities in the market. This has become necessary in order to compensate for the loss of grid stability formerly provided by large power plant capacities. Lex Hartman, executive board member at TenneT, explains: “More digitalisation and technological innovation not only secure tomorrow’s power supply, but also help to reduce additional grid extension in the future.” Currently, the TSO is conducting four other digitisation projects in addition to “HeatFlex”, including three blockchain solution pilots in Germany and the Netherlands.

TenneT cooperates with southern German DSO Bayernwerk in the HeatFlex project for flexible grid management (picture: Bayernwerk AG).

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