Ultranet progresses

17.05.2019

The Ultranet substation on the grounds of the Philippsburg nuclear power plant (which will be completely shut down by 31 December 2019) in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg is to become one of the most significant power hubs in Germany’s future energy landscape. Here, the supra-regional DC line Ultranet will be connected to the regional 380kV grid of TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs). Ultranet will transfer wind energy generated in the northwest of the country to the industrially highly developed southwest. The European Project of Common Interest (PCI) is jointly carried out by TransnetBW and further TSCNET shareholder Amprion.

Last July, construction work began in Philippsburg with the groundbreaking ceremony for a new gas-insulated switchgear. Now the work on the new DC substation is being initiated, as TransnetBW officially started the filling of the construction site with a symbolic first excavator operation on 16 May. “This is a special day for the ULTRANET DC project and for the energy transition,” declared Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, to around 50 invited representatives from politics, business and society. Dr. Götz continued that now a “visible sign for the progress of the project and our aim to bring renewable electricity to Philippsburg and the region” had been set.

In the meantime, the project partner Amprion has also made progress for Ultranet, albeit in a different domain: In keeping with the motto that it is better to talk to each other than about each other, the TSO on 15 and 16 May has invited municipalities, specialist authorities and citizens’ initiatives to exchange information on the Ultranet planning status in the Rheingau-Taunus and Main-Taunus districts. A first public participation procedure had earlier led to 15 alternative routes in the respective districts, which Amprion examined in more detail. Based on the additional expert exchange, Amprion wants to better integrate the local knowledge and expertise of the participants for the comparison of variants and their environmental impacts.

TransnetBW has started preparing the construction site for the Ultranet substation in Philippsburg (picture: TransnetBW)

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

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Eco-friendly substation maintenance

13.05.2019

In total, TSCNET shareholder TenneT operates 462 high-voltage substations in the Dutch and German control areas of the binational transmission system operator (TSO). The operation of a high-voltage grid inevitably involves interference with ecosystems, but TenneT is investigating how to minimise and compensate for this. For this reason, the TSO has carried out a pilot project on biodiversity at three substations in the Netherlands.

The results of the pilot are impressive: The nature-friendly maintenance of the three facilities has preserved up to 72 percent of their insect populations. The respective measures to increase biodiversity can easily be replicated. Local seed mixtures were sown, and greens were mown in a meandering manner. Based on these encouraging results, TenneT will promote biodiversity at all of its 462 substations.

TenneT intends to establish biodiversity-friendly management as the corporate standard by 2025. This commitment to biodiversity is part of the TSO’s Corporate Social Responsibility approach for 2025 and reflects the company’s ambition to play a leading role in the energy transition as a “Green Grid Operator”. Ben Voorhorst, member of TenneT’s Executive Board, explains: “With our high voltage connections and stations, in addition to transporting green electricity, we can also contribute to the conservation of nature in another way.”

TenneT is introducing biodiversity-friendly substation maintenance (picture: kie-ker/Pixabay)

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> See TenneT press release (html)

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New 380kV line in Valais

17.04.2019

The complete transmission of hydroelectric power generated in the Swiss Canton of Valais to the country’s urban areas is essential for the future of Switzerland’s energy supply: Without the connection of the Valais transmission lines to the 380kV grid, only around two-thirds of Valais hydropower can be transmitted as soon as the new Nant de Drance pumped storage plant goes into operation. That is why increasing the voltage of the line between the Chippis and Mörel substations in the Rhone valley from 220 to 380kV is an important part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, the grid modernisation and expansion plan of TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission grid operator (TSO).

Swissgrid is planning the new construction of a 380kV overhead line with a length of around 44 kilometres, which will bypass and relieve settlement areas as far as possible. The existing 220kV line will be dismantled after the new line is commissioned. As with every grid project, Swissgrid has evaluated both cable and overhead line variants for Chippis-Mörel, with the result that underground installation would not only be very costly and time-consuming but would also not generate any significant added value for the natural landscape.

At the end of March 2019, Swissgrid submitted the planning approval procedure to the Swiss Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (Eidgenössisches Starkstrominspektorat – ESTI) and also engages in dialogue with the population, the municipalities, the authorities and associations. The TSO’s current planning foresees commissioning of the line in 2025, but in the event of objections and legal proceedings, initial operation may be delayed by several years.

Swissgrid will build a new 380kv overhead line between Chippis and Mörel in Valais (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid media release, in German (html)

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TenneT to build compensatory gas power plant

10.01.2019

The successive shutdown of nuclear or emission-intensive large-scale power plants is an integral part of the energy transition in Germany. In order not to compromise the national energy supply security, the German legislator provides for special grid facilities that should not serve the market constantly but be available as a “safety buffer” on short notice and at any time when the power system reliability is at risk. TSCNET shareholder TenneT is facing up to this task of the energy future and plans to commission such a special grid facility in the form of a 300MW gas power plant on the site of the Irsching substation near Ingolstadt in the German state of Bavaria.

The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) now has awarded the contract for the construction and operation of the plant to the energy company Uniper. Probably from 1 October 2022, the power plant will be on stand-by to serve as a “safety cushion” by supplying power in emergency cases. The new gas power plant can be immediately activated in order to maintain transmission system safety and the current level of reliability of the electricity supply also in the future.

From the end of June 2018, TenneT, together with the German TSOs Amprion and TransnetBW, has put out to tender a total of 1,200MW of capacity for special grid facilities Europe-wide and non-technology-specific. The tender covers four regions in southern Germany, each with a capacity of 300MW. For one of these regions, in this case southern Bavaria, TenneT has now awarded the first special grid facility contract.

TenneT has awarded a contract for a compensatory gas power plant at the Irsching substation (picture: Uniper SE) 

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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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Transformer for TenneT’s hybrid Statcom facility

01.01.2019

Right on time for Christmas 2018, a heavy-duty train loaded with a 299-tonne transformer built by ABB reached the Borken substation operated by TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO). Here at the long-established substation site in Borken in the German state of Hesse, practically in the middle of the German power system, the TSO is currently building the first German hybrid static synchronous compensator system (Statcom). In order to efficiently connect the Statcom system, which will later be operated at 40kV, to the existing extra-high voltage grid, a so-called impedance matching transformer is required.

The hybrid Statcom facility will provide reactive power as compensation for the declining capacities previously provided by large power plants, which are now being successively taken off the grid in the course of the energy transition. In the three-phase transmission system, the reactive power must be in balance with the active power in order to maintain the grid’s voltage at the required level. That is why reactive power compensation is a priority task for the German TSOs.

On the morning of 8 January 2019, the foundations of the transformer will be laid in front of the Statcom plant which is currently under construction. It will then take around three months before the matching transformer is operational. The entire Statcom system is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2019. In Borken, TenneT is investing around €30m in future-proof grid operation. Germany’s first hybrid Statcom system will then not only contribute to dynamic voltage stabilisation, but the entire Borken substation will also become one of the most modern hubs for green power in the TenneT grid.

TenneT has been supplied with a matching HDVC transformer for its hybrid Statcom facility at the Borken substation (picture: ABB)

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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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New transformer for Laufenburg substation

20.11.2018

The Laufenburg substation in the Swiss canton of Aargau is not only one of the largest substations in Europe connecting the electrical systems of several countries, but also the birthplace of the European integrated network operation: In 1958, the “Star of Laufenburg” was put into operation as the first interconnection of the French, German and Swiss electricity grids. TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid is now upgrading the substation so that it can continue to guarantee regional and supraregional security of supply also in the future. With this upgrade, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) is implementing an important part of its grid modernisation and expansion plan, the so-called “Strategic Grid 2025”.

Already in 2017, the old 220kV outdoor switchgear in Laufenburg was replaced by a gas-insulated unit. The by now outdated transformer from 1966 is currently also being replaced, increasing the transformer capacity of the substation from 600MVA to 800MVA. The new 380/220kV transformer was manufactured in the Siemens plant in Weiz in the eastern part of the Austrian state of Styria and shipped from there to the Rhine port of Muttenz near Basel. The subsequent delivery of all individual parts of the device from the port to Laufenburg took around three weeks. The four poles of the transformer, each weighing about 200 tonnes, were moved individually on a special road transportation unit with twenty axes. At the same time, sixteen trucks brought additional material for the installation of the transformer to Laufenburg.

The new transformer will be installed with concrete walls surrounding each pole providing space for the connections of all poles, of which only three will be in operation simultaneously. Thanks to the installed connections, the reserve pole can be put into operation at short notice. Replacement of an active pole by a reserve pole is planned at five-year intervals, which will significantly increase the transformer’s lifespan. The commissioning of the new equipment is scheduled for mid-2019.

Swissgrid installs new 800MVA transformer at the Laufenburg substation in the canton of Aargau (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid news release (html)
> Watch video of the transport on Swissgrid’s YouTube channel (“Transport eines Giganten”, in German with English subtitles)

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Direct coupling transformer for Upper Franconia

08.10.2018

The Ostbayernring power line from Upper Franconia to Upper Palatinate in the German state of Bavaria regularly reaches its limits due to the increasing feed-in of renewable energy. The transmission capacity of the Ostbayerring must therefore be significantly increased in order to guarantee future security of supply and grid stability. For this purpose, a highly efficient replacement construction is planned along the existing route. In the context of this Ostbayernring upgrade, also the Mechlenreuth substation in Münchberg is being renewed and expanded since spring 2018.

The substation is operated by TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO). It is a central hub for regional and supra-regional energy supply, as here the existing and in future the new Ostbayerring is connected to the subordinate 110 kV level of the distribution grid. The modernisation of the substation is making great progress: On 11 October 2018, a heavy-load rail transport system delivers a new direct coupling transformer with a transport weight of 254t to Mechlenreuth.

The 300MVA transformer is scheduled to go into operation in April 2019. Like the Ostbayernring itself, the substation cannot be switched off completely for a longer period of time in order to guarantee constant power supply. All the particular components will therefore be individually dismantled, newly erected and put back into operation in several construction phases and  during ongoing operation. The modification of the entire Mechlenreuth plant should be completed in 2023.

TenneT expects the delivery of a direct coupling transformer to the Ostbayernring substation in Mechlenreuth (picture of a previous transformer transport: TenneT)

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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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Dutch recovery facility ready for operation

04.10.2018

Although it is most unlikely that there will ever be a complete power outage in the Netherlands, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the German-Dutch transmission system operator (TSO), wants to be prepared even for such an unimaginable scenario and thus also fulfil European agreements. For these reasons, a new recovery facility for the high-voltage grid was put into operation at the gas-fired Enecogen power plant in the Rotterdam-Europoort area.

In the event of a total blackout, the Dutch power plants will have to be reactivated, which is exactly the task of the new equipment. Like an enormous starter motor, the system ‒ consisting of an emergency generator and a gas turbine ‒ switches the Rotterdam power station back on. Then the rest of the power supply, be it other large-scale plants, solar or wind farms, is connected back to the grid step by step in order to quickly reactivate the national transmission system.

The Enecogen recovery facility is the third emergency system contracted by TenneT in the Netherlands. With comparable units in the north and centre of the country, the new “starter of the south” now completes the TSO’s emergency and recovery concept for total power failures.

In the port of Rotterdam, a new recovery facility for outages in the Dutch transmission grid was commissioned on behalf of TenneT (Picture: TenneT)

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Official opening of substation in Ticino

01.10.2018

The commissioning of the modernised Avegno substation in the district of Vallemaggia in the Swiss canton of Ticino is a landmark achievement for TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO): “Since Swissgrid took over the Swiss transmission grid in 2013, it has been the first substation project to be fully implemented by the national grid company,” explains Maurice Dierick, Head of Grid at Swissgrid.

The Avegno substation is an important hub of the Swiss transmission network, both regionally and nationally. In addition, it connects the Verbano hydropower plant to the national extra-high voltage grid. Construction work at Avegno began in October 2016 and will be completed by the end of November with the dismantling of the old 220kV open air switchgear. Already in April 2018, the new gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) was connected to the grid. All in all, Swissgrid has invested CHF17m (almost €15m) in the modernisation of Avegno.

Swissgrid has opened the new Avegno substation, equipped with a gas-insulated switchgear (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid media release, in German (html)

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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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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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