Completion of repairs at Albula Pass

30.07.2019

In mid-April, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), began repairing the 380kV lines on the Albula Pass in the canton of Grisons, which had been damaged by the windstorm Adrian (Vaia in the German-speaking area), in the night of 29 to 30 October 2018. Since then, the two affected lines (Filisur-Robbia and Pradella-Robbia-Sils) were out of service, as Swissgrid decided for safety reasons not to erect a temporary connection in winter due to the danger of avalanches. The four damaged pylons and the conductors have now been replaced. On 29 July 2019, the lines were put back in operation as scheduled.

During the outage of the lines, grid security in the transmission system was always guaranteed and there were no supply interruptions. But the importance of the line as a north-south link made the repair particularly urgent. Thanks to partial snow clearance by the Civil Engineering Office of Grisons and a temporary avalanche protection system, Swissgrid was able to start work even before the official opening of the Albulapass road. Thus, Swissgrid was already able to start work on the four pylons on 15 April. The old foundations were removed, and new ones laid. The pylons were then built, and the conductors installed. The new pylons withstand even greater wind forces due to their stronger foundations and supporting structures. Two pylons now also have foundations with integrated avalanche protection.

Strict safety regulations were followed during the work. The high alpine terrain and the unpredictable weather of the snowy winter of 2018/19 presented the repair team with major challenges. The local avalanche commission issued an avalanche bulletin every day and activities were planned based on this information. The specialists on the construction sites were equipped with avalanche detectors and a container would have provided 48 hours of protection in an emergency. The work was accident-free. The Swiss TSO also developed and implemented a comprehensive environmental plan to protect the high alpine landscape. For example, the soil layers were removed and stored separately and returned to their original place after completion of the foundation work. The original state of the surroundings was then restored as far as possible.

Swissgrid has finished repair work on the damaged overhead lines at the Albula Pass (picture: Swissgrid)

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Swissgrid analyses critical situation

27.05.2019

On the critical situation in the Swiss transmission grid on Monday, 20 May 2019, when individual grid elements were considerably overloaded or threatened to be overloaded, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission grid operator (TSO), has already completed an initial analysis. On that day, with a high Swiss domestic electricity production of around 12 GW, a total of around 4.5 GW was exported, most of it to Germany. Since the load flows typically run in the opposite direction, this atypical situation led to security breaches in the grid.

For reasons unknown, the European grid forecasts did not anticipate that export volumes would increase in the short term from Sunday to Monday. Swissgrid had thus to resolve the grid security breaches in real-time operation in cooperation with colleagues from the European TSOs. This incident shows that the forecasts can deviate considerably from the actual load flows. It also indicates the crucial importance of integrating all transmission grids in Europe, including Switzerland, into the grid modelling, so that any threats to grid security can be identified in advance and coordinated measures can be taken.

However, since Switzerland is excluded from market coupling due to the lack of an electricity agreement with the EU, the deviations between forecasts and effective load flows are likely to increase. An agreement, on the other hand, would include Swissgrid in the models for load flow calculation and capacity allocation of the European partners and provide the TSO with better information on the load flows through Switzerland.

Swissgrid presents first analysis of the grid security breach from 20 May (picture: Swissgrid)

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Pylon repair started at Albula Pass

25.05.2019

The windstorm Adrian (Vaia in the German-speaking area) was one of the most devastating storms of the European storm season 2018-19, mainly affecting the northern Mediterranean and Alpine regions. It not only damaged the Venetian Basilica of San Marco and flooded 75% of Venice, but also destroyed transmission lines at the Albula Pass: In the night to 30 October 2018, four pylons from TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) bent or collapsed at the high mountain pass in the Canton of Grisons.

Since then, the two affected 380kV lines (Filisur-Robbia and Pradella-Robbia-Sils) have been out of operation, as Swissgrid has decided for safety reasons not to erect a provisional connection with emergency masts in winter due to the danger of avalanches. Nevertheless, grid security in the transmission grid is ensured at all times and there have been no supply interruptions. While security and supply are guaranteed, however, transit capacity to Italy had to be reduced until the line is restored.

Swissgrid began repairing the 380kV lines in mid-April and is now replacing the four broken pylons whose foundations are currently being reconstructed. New pylons and the conductor ropes will then be installed. If everything goes according to plan, the two lines will go operational again at the end of July.

Swissgrid has commenced repair work on the damaged overhead lines at the Albula Pass (picture: Swissgrid)

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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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Swissgrid presents good results despite grid expansion

03.04.2019

The business environment for European energy companies such as the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid is demanding in times of the energy transition and the European market integration. Some political uncertainty factors with regard to networking at European level, the relocation of the company to its new headquarters in the “energy canton” of Aargau, and the revision of the legal framework for the Swiss energy sector were particular challenges for the TSCNET shareholder last year. Nevertheless, the TSO presents solid results at his annual media conference.

An integral element of Swissgrid’s forward-looking infrastructural planning is the “Strategic Grid 2025”. As part of this strategy, Swissgrid began in 2018 with the construction of two important overhead line projects in the cantons of Valais and Aargau. Worth mentioning is the line section at Gäbihübel near Bözberg/Riniken in Aargau, where Switzerland’s first underground cabling on the 380kV voltage level is being implemented. But even with the expansion of its infrastructure, Swissgrid managed to further reduce operating costs thanks to successful efficiency measures.

As far as the key figures are concerned, the company’s net profit rose slightly to CHF65.6m, while earnings before interest and taxes amounted to CHF119.4m, a decrease of 4.4% compared to the previous year. This is attributable to Swissgrid’s consistent reduction of volume and tariff-related timing differences, which led to a decline in invested operating assets. Yves Zumwald, CEO of Swissgrid, comments on the business year in a demanding environment: “Thanks to the consistent implementation of our efficiency measures and the great commitment of our team members, we are able to report a robust result.”

Swissgrid reports solid results in its Annual Report 2018

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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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