New Rhône Valley power line operational in 2022

24.03.2020

In early 2018, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), began preparations for the construction of the new 380kV line in the Rhône Valley between the two substations Chamoson and Chippis, which is to replace the old 220kV line. This new line is of crucial importance for Switzerland’s security of supply, particularly for the transmission of electricity generated in the Valais hydroelectric power plants to the consumption centres in the central Swiss Plateau.

After about 18 months of actual construction, the extra-high voltage line is now taking shape and work is underway along its entire length. But not only do numerous safety measures have to be considered during construction, also the access to some plots of land has not yet been clarified at some pylon sites. These locations are distributed along the entire route of the line. As a decision by the responsible federal authorities is still pending in some cases, Swissgrid has now reviewed the construction plans and postponed commissioning of the new line until summer 2022. As the Federal Evaluation Commission (“Eidgenössische Schätzungskommission”) has given priority to the TSO’s applications, Swissgrid is confident about the further construction of the line.

Swissgrid expects the new 380kV line from Chamoson to Chippis to be commissioned in summer 2022 (picture: Swissgrid)

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Integrated market in Switzerland

13.02.2020

In Continental Europe, the synchronised frequency is of 50 Hz. It is a core task of every transmission system operator (TSO) to keep the balance between power production and consumption and the grid frequency stable. The Swiss TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the national TSO, operates a market for ancillary services for this purpose. Power plants and other auxiliary service providers (ASPs) in Switzerland hold primary, secondary and tertiary control reserve capacities on behalf of Swissgrid and, in case of frequency deviations, allocate them against compensation. Primary and secondary control energy is retrieved automatically and tertiary control energy manually.

Swissgrid is constantly striving to further develop the ancillary services market with innovative solutions. These include the bundling of manually retrieved products for frequency control and for international redispatch into a single integrated market. A market platform suitable for this purpose, which enables the retrieval of both, tertiary control energy and energy for international redispatches, was successfully launched by Swissgrid last week. This is possible because the two products have the same characteristics and can be called up with the same lead time of 15 minutes.

The specifications of the platform design allow the market offers to be freely changeable. This means, above all, that there is no longer any competition between the tertiary control energy market and the intraday market. ASPs can now offer the energy not sold in the intraday market on the integrated market. Another new feature is that tenders can be processed using the communication protocol of the Energy Communication Platform (ECP) of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), which enables direct communication between the IT systems of the ASPs and the Swissgrid bidding platform. This process automation leads to greater transparency.

Swissgrid has launched a platform for the integration of the tertiary control energy market and the international intraday market (picture of the Mettlen-Lavorgo powerline: Albinfo / CC BY 3.0)

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Windstorm results in damage and record feeds

11.02.2020

From Sunday evening through Tuesday morning, the windstorm Ciara (Sabine in German speaking countries and Elsa in Scandinavia) brought severe damaging winds along the squall line across Benelux, France, and Germany and also seriously affected large parts of Central Europe such as the Alpine countries of Austria and Switzerland as well as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Switzerland, Sabine caused several damages to the extra-high voltage grid on Monday, 10 February.

A total of six transmission lines were affected by the storm. Fortunately, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), can report that security of supply in Switzerland has never been at risk and that no people were injured as a result of the damage to the Swissgrid transmission system. Following the tear of a conductor cable of the 220kV line Göschenen-Plattischachen, canton of Uri, the substations Plattischachen and Göschenen had to be temporarily disconnected from the extra-high voltage grid. In western Switzerland, the 220kV line across the Great St. Bernard, canton of Valais, towards the border with Italy was interrupted. The line is in rough terrain and as soon as weather conditions and the security conditions permit, it will be checked by helicopter and examined for possible damage. In total, four of the damaged lines have meanwhile been repaired.

Although there may not have been comparable damage elsewhere and impairments occurred primarily at distribution system level, the storm was generally a major challenge for the affected TSOs, since it gave a powerful boost to electricity generation from wind power. However, the power input was not consistent and wind turbines were shut down when gusts were too strong. At its peak, around 43.7GW of wind power was fed into the grid in Germany, as the Fraunhofer ISE energy charts show, exceeding the previous record of around 43.4GW. According to calculations by the Agora Energiewende think tank, more than three quarters of the electricity consumed in Germany between Sunday noon and Monday noon came from renewable energies.

The International Economic Forum for Renewable Energies (Internationales Wirtschaftsforum Regenerative Energien – IWR) registered a Europe-wide record feed on Sunday evening, when more than 105GW of energy output from wind were recorded in the European power grid. This highest European measurement in 2020 was even surpassed on Monday morning with the all-time record of 109GW.

From Sunday to Tuesday morning, a powerful winter storm caused several damages in the grid of Swissgrid and led to record feed-in of wind energy in Europe

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> Visit IWR Wind Metering Portal, in German (html)

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Swissgrid and hydropower storage plants agree on minimum production

20.12.2019

To avoid an overload of grid elements in western Switzerland during the winter holidays, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), has agreed upon a minimum production with selected regional hydropower storage plants. This is intended to reduce the potential increased and costly need for redispatch during these low-consumption days.

The measure is also necessary because the availability of the transformer at the Bassecourt substation in the canton of Jura is currently limited and the new transformer at Mühleberg in the canton of Berne has not yet been fully installed. Both projects will be implemented in spring 2020. The agreed minimum production in the period from 20 December 2019 to 6 January 2020 is 200MW (off-peak) and 400MW (peak).

Swissgrid has negotiated minimum production from hydropower storage plants

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Ernen-Ulrichen 380kV line in operation

21.10.2019

With the erection of the last of a total of 57 pylons, the new extra-high voltage line between the Ernen and Ulrichen substations in the Swiss canton of Valais has now been completed. The 30-kilometre section is part of the 380kV Mörel-Ulrichen line project of TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO). The line upgrade in the Rhône Valley is vital for the future of Switzerland’s energy supply: In order to fully transfer the hydropower generated in the Valais to the urban areas of Switzerland, the lines of the south-western canton must be connected to the supra-regional 380kV transmission grid, particularly in view of the commissioning of the new Nant de Drance pumped storage power station, scheduled for 2020.

The existing 220kV overhead line between Ernen and Ulrichen is already disconnected. Its 177 pylons will be dismantled from spring 2020 and the former pylon locations will be recultivated. Swissgrid is additionally carrying out nature conservation projects of national importance in the vicinity of the new line. Also starting next year, the Swiss TSO will continue its Valais upgrade project with the new construction of the next section between Ernen and Mörel-Filet, which is expected to be commissioned as 380kV line by the end of 2022.

Swissgrid has commissioned the new 380kV line between Ernen-Ulrichen (picture: Swissgrid)

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Delay for the Bassecourt-Mühleberg line upgrade

07.10.2019

With the decommissioning of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant in the canton of Bern at the end of 2019, part of Switzerland’s energy production in the central Swiss Plateau will cease. In the medium term, this shortage will have to be offset by higher production from Swiss power plants or by energy imports from abroad. This is particularly important in winter, when Switzerland is dependent on additional energy imports.

TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), is therefore upgrading the Bassecourt-Mühleberg power line from 220kV to 380kV and equipping the Mühleberg substation with a new 380/220kV transformer to ensure security of supply in the greater Bern area and the entire central region of the Swiss Plateau. The modernisation of the line will require adjustments to 54 of a total of 142 existing pylons and will not affect the landscape. Both upgrade measures are part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious grid modernisation and expansion plan.

While the installation work for the new transformer in Mühleberg continues, a delay of two years in the voltage increase of the Bassecourt-Mühleberg line is expected due to legal complaints against the line upgrade. In August, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy approved the line upgrade and rejected the objections, which mainly concerned the exposure to magnetic fields and noise or the need to relocate the line or to use underground cables. Various complainants have now appealed against this decision of the Federal Office to the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland, thus preventing further progress.

The upgrading of the Bassecourt-Mühleberg power line by Swissgrid will be delayed (picture: Swissgrid)

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50 new pylons for the Pradella-La Punt line

19.09.2019

The extra-high voltage line in the Swiss Engadine between Pradella/Scuol and La Punt represents a bottleneck in the Swiss and the European transmission grid. To remedy this shortcoming, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), began upgrading the 380kV line to 2 x 380kV in October 2017. This will increase import capacity from the north, strengthen interconnections with Austria and Italy and facilitate the transport of hydropower in the canton of Grisons. The project also improves security of supply in Switzerland and is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious modernisation and expansion plan.

Basically, the upgrade means that Swissgrid will attach a second 380kV line to the pylons, which are originally fitted with only one line on one side. Over the past two years, the TSO has reinforced the mast foundations between Pradella and La Punt and will complete this work in autumn. But Swissgrid has also examined the static of the pylons and discovered that some of them have insufficient load capacity for the second circuit. For safety reasons, it was thus decided to replace 50 of altogether 127 masts instead of reinforcing them. This change has no impact on the routing, but on the schedule: The commissioning of the upgraded line will be delayed by at least one year and is now planned for 2022.

Swissgrid has to erect 50 new pylons for the Pradella-La Punt line (picture: Swissgrid)

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Swissgrid adjusts export capacities to Germany

03.09.2019

All participants in the integrated European electricity market have agreed on common definitions of the transmission capacity for international electricity exchanges, including the Net Transfer Capacity (NTC). The NTC is an important basis to anticipate and plan cross-border transactions. Thus, the establishment of NTCs is one of the essential tasks of the transmission system operators (TSOs) to enable market participants to carry out energy trading without jeopardising grid stability. TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss TSO, along with the neighbouring TSOs, determines the NTC values on all four Swiss borders on an annual, monthly and daily basis.

In the summer of 2019, Swissgrid had to reduce the NTC on the national northern border to Germany to ensure reliable grid operation. Originally, a static NTC value of 4,000 MW for exports from Switzerland to Germany had been defined with the neighbouring German TSOs. However, the load flows between the two countries have changed in the last two years. Situations in which Germany is dependent on imports, especially from Switzerland, occurred increasingly in the summer months. As a result, the previously typical north-south flow towards Italy reversed to a south-north flow towards Germany.

Other simultaneous factors also affected the Swiss grid load, such as the high level of Swiss hydropower production, the inspection times of the Swiss nuclear power plants and the seasonal decommissioning and construction work on the grid. In combination with the growth in exports to Germany, this led to significantly higher load flows in the Swiss 220kV grid, which were additionally reinforced by increased export opportunities from France to Germany through Flow-Based Market Coupling (FMBC) in the Central Western Europe (CWE) region and transit through Switzerland.

In fact, exports of up to 8,000MW were recorded on several days this summer. For this reason, Swissgrid, together with its neighbouring TSOs, has limited the NTC values for a secure grid operation. Swissgrid continues to cooperate closely with these TSOs to optimise cross-border capacity. The current static value of 4,000MW is expected to be substituted by seasonally adjusted dynamic NTC values. However, due to the implementation of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans Package” (CEP) of the European Commission, it is not yet possible to predict exactly how the NTC values at Switzerland’s northern border will develop.

Swissgrid adjusts the NTC values for electricity flows at the Swiss-German border

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Swissgrid commissions new transformer in Laufenburg

28.08.2019

TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), has successfully taken a new transformer into operation in the Laufenburg substation. It is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025” and plays a central role in the Swiss transmission grid. The new transformer connects the 380kV and 220kV grid levels and increases the capacity of the Laufenburg substation from 600 to 800MVA. It ensures the supply of electricity to the Swiss population, even in the event of increased electricity demand in the future.

The transformer consists of four poles, three active poles and one reserve pole. In the event of a fault, the reserve pole can replace the defective pole without time-consuming displacement. What would otherwise take weeks can be carried out in Laufenburg in just a few days. The protective measures correspond to the highest standard. The new transformer replaces the old one after 53 years of operation.

Swissgrid has put a new transformer into operation at the Laufenburg substation (picture taken from the Swissgrid video “Ein Riese geht ans Netz”, YouTube)

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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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