Foundation stone laid for ULTRANET substation

17.09.2020

On the site of the former Philippsburg nuclear power plant, which was shut down completely on 31 December 2019, a new DC substation for the German supra-regional “power highway” ULTRANET is being constructed. The Philippsburg substation in the German state of Baden-Württemberg represents the southern end point of ULTRANET, where the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line will be connected to the regional 380kV AC grid. The new substation is thus to become one of the most important energy hubs in Germany’s future energy landscape. It is being built on behalf of TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, the transmission system operator (TSO) from Baden-Württemberg. In its entirety, ULTRANET is a joint project of TransnetBW and further German TSCNET shareholder Amprion. It will transmit wind energy generated in the northwest of Germany to the industrially highly developed southwest. On the other hand, the Philippsburg substation will enable the conversion of AC to DC, e.g. to transport excess photovoltaic electricity from the south to the north.

In March 2020, the construction of the ULTRANET substation was approved by the competent authority and in May, the demolition of the two cooling towers of the former power plant created the necessary construction space of around 100,000m². Now, the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone took place in Phillipsburg in the presence of high-ranking representatives from politics, business, and society – and in strict compliance with the Corona regulations. Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, commented: “It was nevertheless very important to us not to let this important day pass without expressing our thanks to politicians, partners, and the project team.”

Andreas Feicht, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, recognised the progress of the European Project of Common Interest (PCI): “The converter in Philippsburg illustrates that the grid expansion is progressing in large steps.” Franz Untersteller, Minister of the Environment, Climate Protection, and the Energy Sector of Baden-Württemberg, emphasised the specific nature of the location and its symbolic value: “There are few places where the energy transition can be visualised in such a condensed form as here in Philippsburg. After the two cooling towers were detonated in May of this year, the old world made way for the new.”

TransnetBW has celebrated the laying of the foundation stone for the ULTRANET substation in Philippsburg (picture: TransnetBW)

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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Demolition makes room for DC substation

14.05.2020

After TransnetBW, the transmission system operator (TSO) from the south-western German state of Baden-Württemberg, was granted building permit for the ULTRANET substation on the site of the former Philippsburg nuclear power plant in March 2020, the way is now finally clear for its construction. At 6.05 in the morning of 14 May 2020, the two cooling towers on the site of the former power plant were detonated. Now the necessary construction space of around 100,000m² is created. The Philippsburg plant was shut down completely on 31 December 2019 and the building construction of the ULTRANET substation is scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2020.

Since the future Philippsburg substation is the southern end point of the supra-regional high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line ULTRANET, it will be one of the most important energy hubs in Germany’s soon-to-be energy landscape. ULTRANET, a European Project of Common Interest (PCI), is jointly implemented by the two TSCNET shareholders TransnetBW and Amprion. It will transfer wind energy generated in the northwest of Germany to the more industrially developed southwest with low losses. In Philippsburg, the transmitted DC will be converted into AC and distributed regionally. In the reverse case, the substation enables the conversion of AC to DC, e.g. to transport excess photovoltaic power from the south to the north.

The fact that the “green” substation will feed renewable electricity into the transmission system instead of nuclear power is a representative of the entire German energy future. “The construction of our DC substation on the site of the cooling towers of the nuclear power plant is a visible sign and symbol of the progress of the energy transition,” comments Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board. “In future, renewable electricity will flow from the Philippsburg site through the TransnetBW transmission grid to the entire region. Thus, as the TSO in Baden-Württemberg, we ensure that our country will have the electricity it needs even in a future without nuclear power and coal.”

With the cooling towers of the Philippsburg nuclear plant detonated, TransnetBW will begin construction of the ULTRANET substation (picture: screenshot taken from video “Sprengung der Kühltürme des Atomkraftwerks Philippsburg”, in German, YouTube channel of German newspaper “Die Rheinpfalz“)

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Amprion invests €1bn in 525kV cables for A-Nord

12.05.2020

The DC transmission line A-Nord represents the northern part of Corridor A, which is one of the main axes of the German energy transition. The 300-kilometre line from the port city of Emden at the Dollart Bay to Osterath in the Lower Rhine region is being implemented by TSCNET shareholder Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs). With a capacity of 2GW, A-Nord will transport wind power from the North Sea to the centres of consumption in the Rhineland and Ruhr district. The southern part of Corridor A is the Ultranet line, which is being implemented jointly by Amprion and further TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW.

Like other large-scale German DC interconnection projects that are essential to the country’s low-carbon energy future, A-Nord will be realised via underground cabling. The transmission capacity of 2GW will be achieved by 525kV cables whose efficiency significantly reduces the environmental impact but requires a special insulation material and highly competent suppliers. After extensive technical tests, Amprion has now contracted the underground cables for A-Nord. The specialist companies Prysmian Powerlink and Sumitomo Electric Industries are each supplying one cable system for A-Nord. The manufacturers will produce the systems concurrently with the construction of the line, scheduled to start in 2023.

Dr Hans-Jürgen Brick, CEO of Amprion, comments in view of the challenges to achieve a sustainable energy future: “It is essential that the grid expansion continues to progress swiftly.” Dr Klaus Kleinekorte, the TSO’s CTO, adds: “With this assignment, Amprion once again demonstrates that we are a driving force for innovative developments.”

Amprion has awarded contracts for the 525kV underground cables for the A-Nord power highway (picture: Amprion / Lutz Kampert)

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Construction of ULTRANET substation approved

27.03.2020

The Philippsburg nuclear power plant in the German state of Baden-Württemberg was shut down completely on 31 December 2019. On the power plant site, TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, the Transmission System Operator (TSO) from the southwest of Germany, is planning a new DC substation with a required area of around 100,000m². The substation is to become one of the most important energy hubs in Germany’s future energy landscape, as the supra-regional high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line ULTRANET will be connected here to the regional 380kV AC grid.

After intensive planning, TransnetBW submitted the application for construction permit to the competent district administration for examination in June 2018. The Landratsamt Karlsruhe has now approved the plans of the TSO. “The DC substation plays a central role in integrating renewable energies into the transmission grid,” explains Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board. “In the future, renewable electricity will flow from the Philippsburg site to the entire region. We are thus laying a cornerstone for supply security in a future without nuclear power and coal.”

ULTRANET, a European Project of Common Interest (PCI), is jointly implemented by TransnetBW and the further TSCNET shareholder Amprion. It will transfer wind energy generated in the northwest of Germany to the industrially highly developed southwest. The Philippsburg substation represents the southern end point of ULTRANET. Here, the DC transmitted via ULTRANET to Philippsburg is converted into AC and distributed throughout the region. Vice-versa, the substation allows the conversion of AC into DC, e.g. to transport surplus photovoltaic power from the south to the north.

TransnetBW has received official approval for the construction of the ULTRANET substation in Philippsburg (architectural sketch of the substation: Codema International GmbH / TransnetBW)

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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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Germany wants to speed up grid expansion

16.08.2018

Germany’s electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) repeat it like in prayer mills: If the energy transition in Germany is to succeed, the extension of the supraregional transmission system must keep pace with the expansion of renewable energy generation. This is mainly due to the special conditions in Germany, where the major renewable generation sites lie in the north of the country and thus far from the main consumption centres in the south and southwest. To ensure security of supply for the future, electricity must be transported reliably from north to south. This requires efficient power lines, such as the well-known line projects “A-Nord”, “SuedLink”, “SuedOstLink”, and “Ultranet”, or the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung”, which was completed in 2017.

Unfortunately, the expansion is lagging behind the set goals. The Power Line Expansion Act (EnLAG), which came into force in 2009, provides that by 2015 the transmission grid should have been extended by around 1,800km. Three years later, not even half of the total length has been realised: Of the 1,800km of power lines under EnLAG, around 1,150km have been approved and only about 800km have been completed. The German TSOs expect about 70 percent of EnLAG line kilometres to be completed by the end of 2020. There are many reasons for the delay, such as lack of political support, long approval procedures, complaints from citizens, or environmental issues. Already at the beginning of last year, the four German TSOs, 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW, submitted revised network development plans to the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), the competent German authority in terms of grid extension.

Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, has now expressed the political goal of significantly accelerating grid extension in order to guarantee a secure and affordable energy transition. The Minister took a visit to the Bundesnetzagentur on 14 August as an opportunity to declare the grid extension a top priority and to present the Ministry’s “Aktionsplan Stromnetz” (“Power Grid Action Plan”). Mr Altmaier added: “For a successful energy transition we need a modern and well-developed transmission system as well as the expansion of renewable energies. The power grids are the cardiovascular system of our power supply. This must function reliably from the wind turbine in the North Sea to the charging station in Bavaria.”

With his action plan, Altmaier is pursuing a double strategy: On the one hand, existing lines are to be optimised with the help of new technologies and operating concepts: e.g. line monitoring, new conductor cables, phase shifters, controllable transformers, or improved redispatching. Also the digitisation should help to enhance the grid capacity. On the other hand, the grid extension is to be accelerated. For this purpose, the so-called “Netzausbaubeschleunigungsgesetz” (“Grid Extension Acceleration Law”) is to be amended in autumn to facilitate approval procedures. In addition, effective and forward-looking controlling should be established for all grid projects.

According to a press release, TSCNET shareholder Amprion welcomes the efforts. “To speed up network expansion, we need a common understanding from Berlin to the local city halls,” said Dr. Hans-Jürgen Brick, Chief Commercial Officer of Amprion. “This is the only way we can solve the complex challenges of the projects.” Moreover, no fundamental new laws were needed to accelerate network expansion, but less bureaucracy. If the approval processes were made more efficient, more time would remain to develop the best possible solutions for new routes in dialogue with the citizens.

When designing the network expansion, Amprion focused on innovations – both in transmission and construction technologies as well as in system management. Nevertheless, not all the wishes of residents and interest groups could be fulfilled – for example, where physics or laws set limits. “We need demand-driven grid expansion in order to continue to operate the energy system in a stable manner in the future. At the same time, we are exploiting all possibilities to make our network even more flexible and efficient,” said Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, Chief Technical Officer of Amprion.

Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, presents a Power Grid Action Plan (illustration using a photo © German Federal Government / Kugler)

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Groundbreaking ceremony at Ultranet substation

02.07.2018

In June 2017, TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), applied for building permit for a new gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) at its substation on the grounds of the Philippsburg nuclear power plant in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg. One year later, the TSO has celebrated the start of construction with a symbolic turning of the first sod. The GIS replaces the existing open-air switchgear. One of the reasons why it is the technology of choice, is the system’s little space requirement ‒ it takes up only a fifth of the area of the open-air switchgear.

In Philippsburg, the supra-regional DC line Ultranet will be connected to TransnetBW’s regional 380kV grid. This makes the substation one of the most significant power hubs in Germany’s future energy landscape. Ultranet is a joint venture of TransnetBW and further TSCNET shareholder Amprion and destined to transfer renewable (primarily wind) energy from the northwest of the country to the industrially highly developed southwest. The GIS complements the new Ultranet converter, which is also to be built on the plant site. This device will convert the Ultranet DC into AC, which will then be fed into the transmission system by the GIS.

Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, referred to the Philippsburg upgrade as “central component” of the supply security in times of the energy transition. The reconstruction measures will “ensure that the electricity generated in the north reaches the local consumers safely”. According to the current state of planning, the GIS will be commissioned in 2021.

Picture by TransnetBW (from left to right: Norman Weber, Subproject Manager Ultranet at TransnetBW, Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, Stefan Martus, Mayor of Philippsburg, Dr. Martin Schumacher, Boardmember ABB AG, Joachim Schneider, Head of District Adminstration Karlsruhe, Klaus Kaufmann, Project Manager ABB)

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Ultranet hits another milestone

17.01.2018

Ultranet, a German supra-regional DC line, will be realised as a joint project of the TSCNET shareholders Amprion and TransnetBW, two of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs). It is destined to transport green electricity (mainly wind power) from northwestern Germany to the consumption centres in the southwest. Together with the A-Nord line it forms the so-called Korridor A, a key route of the German energy transition. Ultranet is making significant progress: For the southern Ultranet section between Mannheim-Wallstadt and Philippsburg in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region, for which TransnetBW is responsible, the second application for Federal Sectoral Planning has been submitted to the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), the competent German authority in terms of grid management and grid extension. The participation phase of the project starts today with the public display of the planning.

However, Ultranet is only one of several projects for extending TransnetBW’s transmission grid and making it future proof. Another example is the 380kV upgrade of the power line Weinheim-Karlsruhe, which goes hand in hand with substation modernisations. Concerning this project, the TSO filed the first application for Federal Sectoral Planning already in December 2017. At the invitation of the Bundesnetzagentur, a public application conference will be held next February. Maria Dehmer, project spokeswoman for TransnetBW for both projects, considers the participation possibilities “a great opportunity for the public to weigh in with all their concerns”.

> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

Picture: Edited screenshot taken from video “Ultranet – Gleichstromübertragung auf bestehenden Trassen” (YouTube, TransnetBW)

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Amprion presents A-Nord routings

26.07.2017

From 2025 onwards, the DC connection A-Nord is destined to transport wind energy from the northwest of Germany to the consumption centres in the west and south of the country. The project is to be realised for the most part by means of underground cables. With a total length of 300 kilometres, A-Nord will have the capacity to transfer 2GW of electrical power. This corresponds to the needs of about two million people. A-Nord is carried out by TSC member Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs). Together with Ultranet, a joint project with further TSC member TransnetBW, A-Nord forms the so-called Korridor A, a key route of the German energy transition.

Last winter, Amprion performed a detailed environmental analysis involving meetings with public authorities, regional planning authorities or agricultural, forestry, and nature conservation associations. Taking all the results into account, the TSO now has publicly presented the suggestions for possible line routings and enters into the phase of intensive dialogue with the affected public.

“Our goal is to get a lot of valuable information that will allow us to further refine and optimise our planning,” explains Klaus Wewering, Amprion’s project manager. The TSO will incorporate all of the newly acquired data into possible alternative route corridors and intends to apply in March 2018 for Federal Sectoral Planning at the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), the competent German authority in terms of grid management and grid extension.

> See Amprion press release, in German (html)
> Visit A-Nord website

Picture based on mapping and photo by Amprion / Frank Peterschröder

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Gas-insulated switchgear for Ultranet substation

26.07.2017

The substation on the site of the nuclear power plant Philippsburg in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg is of strategic importance for Germany’s future energy landscape. Here, the supra-regional DC line Ultranet will be connected to the 380kV grid of TSC member TransnetBW, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs). Ultranet, carried out jointly by TransnetBW and further TSC member Amprion, is set to transport renewable (primarily wind) energy from the northwest of Germany to the industrially highly developed southwest. Together with the A-Nord line it forms the so-called Korridor A, a flagship project of the German energy transition.

TransnetBW is preparing the exchange of the substation’s existing open-air switchgear with a newly constructed gas-insulated switchgear (GIS). Next to the GIS, a new converter station is also being built on the plant site. The DC from Ultranet will be converted into AC before the GIS feeds it into the transmission system. TransnetBW decided on a GIS system for the renewal of the Philippsburg substation since it requires only a fifth of the area of the open-air switchgear.

To launch the GIS project, TransnetBW has submitted the approval documents for the construction to the city of Philippsburg. In accordance with administrative proceedings, the documents will be handed over by the city government to Baden-Württemberg’s responsible Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector. Based on current planning, the GIS is to be completed and put into operation by the end of 2020. In the months to follow, all transmission lines will be connected to the new system. As soon as this has happened, the open-air switchgear can be dismantled.

> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

Picture: TransnetBW

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