Swissgrid responds to legislative revisions

31.01.2019

The Swiss Federal Electricity Supply Act is the most important legal basis for the operations of TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO). The Swiss Federal Office of Energy began revising this legislative act a few years ago in order to bring it into harmony with the national “Energy Strategy 2050”. Since October 2018, a corresponding consultation procedure on the planned revision of the Electricity Supply Act has been underway. The consultation ends today.

The current revision particularly aims at the full liberalisation of the electricity market and the introduction of a storage reserve. It has stimulated an ongoing debate in Switzerland on the security of supply, which is both necessary and explicitly welcomed by Swissgrid. The TSO also considers that the complete liberalisation of the electricity market will lead to new providers and more innovation, thus having a positive impact on the transmission system and the economy as a whole. In this context, however, it has to be emphasised that liberalisation also places higher demands on efficiency and data quality for the entire electricity sector. Because of this, the availability of timely and reliable data will be crucial for forecasting and monitoring.

With regard to the introduction of a storage reserve, Swissgrid takes a critical stance and generally questions the necessity of a strategic reserve. Reserving existing energy without adding more to the system will not increase supply security. In addition, there are still many open questions about the concrete technical design, but also about the roles and responsibilities in the electricity industry. Swissgrid has the task of operating the grid reliably and efficiently, while the entire electricity industry is responsible for the power supply. Through the activation of a storage reserve, the TSO would indirectly become the last-instance supplier, a role that Swissgrid rejects.

Swissgrid responds to the revision of the Swiss Federal Electricity Supply Act

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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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Repairs at the Albulapass as of May 2019

16.11.2018

In the night to Tuesday, 30 October 2018, the hurricane Vaia damaged the power transmission lines of the TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), at the Albula Pass in the canton of Grisons. Four overhead line masts bent or collapsed there. The two affected 380 kV lines Filisur – Robbia and Pradella – Robbia – Sils have since been out of service. The connection from Pradella to Robbia of the 380 kV line Pradella – Robbia – Sils was put back into operation on 31 October. In the meantime, the clearing work on site has been completed with the dismantling of the conductor ropes and the damaged masts with the help of a heavy-duty helicopter. The repair work has now been scheduled for late spring 2019: Repair work on the two defective 380kV lines will start in May next year.

Overall, the repair work on the high-alpine site is estimated to take two to three months. The lines are scheduled to be put back into operation at the end of July 2019. The failure of the two lines will not affect the security of supply in Switzerland or in the affected regions. However, transit capacity to Italy is somewhat limited: The monthly net transfer capacity (NTC) has been reduced by a total of 900MW.

Swissgrid has decided against a provisional solution with emergency masts for various reasons. In particular, safety concerns speak against a temporary solution. The erection of emergency masts in wintery high mountains involves many risks for man and material. In addition, the time window for a repair up to the first large snowfall would presumably be very narrow. After that, the risk of repair and operation increases considerably due to the weather conditions, for example snow and ice load or the increasing danger of avalanches as well as structural engineering conditions. The measures are being taken in close consultation with the Italian grid operator TERNA and other neighbouring TSOs.

Swissgrid announced to repair the damaged transmission lines at the Albula Pass in late spring 2019 (picture by Adrian Michael, Creative Commons, Wikimedia)

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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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Wind damages in Grisons

30.10.2018

During the night to Tuesday, 30 October, the windstorm “Vaia” rushed over the Alps and through Switzerland partly with hurricane force. This also affected the transmission grid of TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO): A total of six Swissgrid lines have been hit by the storm. Particularly two 380kV lines over the Albula Pass in the Swiss canton of Grisons (Graubünden) were exposed to extreme winds, which led to the bending of four high-voltage pylons.

All six affected lines automatically disconnected, and grid security is assured at all times. Moreover, despite the extreme weather events, there are no supply interruptions. As soon as the weather conditions and the safety situation permit, all lines will be inspected for possible damage and repaired if necessary before they can be reconnected.

Although “Vaia” has damaged the Swiss transmission grid, grid security is ensured (picture: symbol image)

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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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New headquarters for Swissgrid

14.09.2018

The Swiss canton of Aargau is regarded as an energy canton because it is home to large energy companies and because it produces more electricity than it consumes itself. These are more than good reasons for TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid to move closer to its customers and partners by opening the new headquarters of the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) in the cantonal capital of Aarau. Yves Zumwald, CEO at Swissgrid, assesses the operational consolidation at the new premises as an “important foundation for Swissgrid’s future development”.

With their striking façade, the new headquarters not only provide Aarau with an architectural highlight but ‒ as a component of the Swiss critical infrastructure ‒ also meet high security requirements. In addition, the building is extremely sustainable, as it is connected to a heating and cooling network based on renewable energies and equipped with a photovoltaic system on the roof. The Aaarau premises are also home to the new state-of-the-art control centre for the Swiss transmission grid. The old grid control room in Laufenburg will therefore be dismantled by the end of the year.

The interior design of the work areas offers an inspiring working environment and increases opportunities for exchange across team and division boundaries. This is exactly in line with Swissgrid’s new working methodology, which is consistently lived by the management, executives and employees. Finally, the headquarters also house the video-supported art & architecture project “Where does the rainbow end?” by the Swiss-New York artist Katja Loher. This fascinating work of art alludes the electricity flow and thus reflects Swissgrid’s main focus. On the other hand, it serves as a counterpoint to the technically complex working environment.

The Swiss TSO Swissgrid moves into its new headquarters in Aarau (picture: Swissgrid)

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Great progress of Strategic Grid 2025 in Switzerland

24.08.2018

It was only two days ago that the Swiss electricity transmission system operator (TSO), TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, announced the start of construction work on the new 380kV line in Canton Valais. Now the company has signalled the kick-off for building the 1.3km long line section at “Gäbihübel” near Bözberg/Riniken in the canton of Aargau, where the extra-high voltage cable for a 380kV line will be laid underground for the first time. The section is part of a line whose voltage will be increased from 220 to 380kV. The upgrade will increase the security of supply, particularly in the metropolitan areas of Zurich and Central Switzerland.

The technically challenging project is also regarded as an important step in the implementation of the so-called Strategic Grid 2025. The modernisation of the transmission grid is a key factor for a sustainable energy policy, which the country intends to implement with its Energy Strategy 2050. Each line project is developed in a multi-stage planning and approval procedure which involves federal offices, cantonal authorities, environmental associations, network operators and other stakeholders.

Swissgrid ground-breaking ceremony at “Gäbihübel” for the underground cabling near Bözberg/Riniken in the canton of Aargau (picture: Swissgrid)

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Construction work on the new line in Valais start

22.08.2018

The Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid, a shareholder of TSCNET Services, has almost entirely completed the preparatory work begun last January for the first two sections of the new Chamoson-Chippis high-voltage line in the canton of Valais. The first foundations for the masts, which are to be erected from the beginning of 2019, can be built in the sections between Chalais and Sierre and Sion and Vex as early as the end of August. At the same time, the preparatory work for the remaining three sections is to begin. The new line is scheduled to go into operation in 2021.

The main purpose of the new 380kV line is to connect the Nant de Drance pumped storage power station to the grid. Experts assume that the Chamoson-Chippis line will eliminate one of the biggest bottlenecks in the Swiss transmission grid. After completion, almost 89km of lines with 322 masts in the Rhône plain can be dismantled.

For the foundations, the first step is to dig shafts into the ground at the staked-out positions. These are filled with concrete in successive layers. Then a metal base is anchored in the concrete. In zones with natural hazards, special construction and monitoring measures are taken in cooperation with the cantonal geologist and geotechnical specialists. For example, inclinometers are used to measure the movements of the ground at depths of up to 25 metres. The foundations of the pylons are reinforced and, if necessary, protected against rockfall by metal mesh. The feet of some masts are connected with reinforced concrete beams.

Chamoson and Chippis are located in the French-speaking Lower Valais, a famous wine-growing region (picture: Les Celliers de Sion / swisswinedirectory.ch)

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Swiss research on hybrid overhead lines

05.06.2018

While the need for extending the transmission system in order to meet the requirements of the energy transition is high, the public acceptance, in particular of new overhead lines, does not exactly correspond to this infrastructural necessity. This poses new challenges for European transmission system operators (TSOs) in terms of both, publicity work and technical innovation. In order to improve the acceptance of new overhead lines, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss TSO, is engaged in research on hybrid line technologies that enable up to 50 percent more power to be transmitted over existing overhead lines.

Hybrid overhead lines combine AC and DC systems on the same pylon instead of the usual two AC systems. This increases the transport capacity while the tower constructions remain identical in height and width. However, some issues need yet to be resolved, because ‒ depending on external conditions such as weather, dirt or the distance between the cables ‒ interference between the AC and DC systems may cause noise and electrical fields.

“Energy Turnaround”
In collaboration with Swissgrid and other partners, a research group at the renowned technical university ETH Zürich is currently investigating the optimal system layout to keep the transmission capacity high and at the same time to minimise the negative environmental effects.

The research is part of the Swiss national research programme “Energy Turnaround”. In addition to the technological research, social studies are conducted at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Bern. The survey on the social acceptance of the renewables is also carried out in the framework of a national programme, in this case “Managing Energy Consumption”.

Picture: Screenshot taken from video “Hybridleitungen im Feldversuch”, in German (Swissgrid, YouTube)

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