Challenges of the green transition in Denmark

05.11.2020

In Denmark, as in Europe in general, the energy transition presents new and challenging tasks for the players in the energy sector. To improve the information basis and to prepare adequately for these challenges, TSCNET customer Energinet, the Danish transmission system operator (TSO), has created two reports on long-term development needs in the Danish energy system. There are two reports, as Energinet is not only the national TSO for electricity, but also for gas.

The forecasts in “Long-term Development Needs in the Power Grid” are similar to those of other European TSOs and allow similar conclusions. Not surprisingly, Denmark, as a world leader in renewable energy, needs to make even greater efforts to integrate these amounts of energy from renewable sources. In concrete terms, the TSO expects that by 2040 the maximum generation of wind turbines and solar cells could increase from 7.4GW today to perhaps 26GW. Such a tripling or quadrupling will cause problems for the current high-voltage grid, which is not designed to transmit such large amounts of energy.

Some challenges may not be due for 10-20 years, but others are already on the doorstep. In some places in Denmark, large-scale local production from wind and solar energy is already putting a considerable strain on the power grid. Hanne Storm Edlefsen, Head of the Strategic Planning division in Energinet Elsystemansvar, the TSO’s electricity system operator branch, emphasises the need for cooperation at all economic, political, and social levels to make the green transition a success and, for example, to ensure that “a doubling of electricity demand does not mean twice as many power pylons and overhead lines”.

The analyses show, among other things, the locations in Denmark where high-voltage grid extensions are required, either as underground cables or overhead lines. However, Edlefsen also points to other solution approaches beyond mere expansion: The proper placement of wind farms or large photovoltaic systems can reduce the need for grid reinforcement. And electrolysis plants of the future, which convert green electricity into hydrogen and other green fuels, could be located close to major green generation units so that electricity need not be transported across the country.

Energinet has presented two reports on the Danish long-term development needs in the power grid and in the gas system (picture: Energinet)

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Middle Axis increases capacity sevenfold

27.10.2020

Since the 60s of the 20th century, a 220kV overhead line has been in operation between Hamburg and Denmark, thus crossing Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost of the German federal states, in its entirety. Schleswig-Holstein is a true “wind power state” in terms of generation, but consumes very little energy in comparison to the southern and western German states. The green electricity produced here therefore has to be transmitted to the centres of consumption. As a result of the energy transition with increasing shares of wind energy, the capacity of the old line has long since been insufficient, resulting in grid bottlenecks. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT, whose control area includes the state between the North and the Baltic Sea, thus has replaced the old line with a new 380kV line capable of transmitting seven times as much green electricity.

The new overhead line is called Middle Axis (“Mittelachse”), as it is flanked by two other line projects of the TSCNET shareholder, the East-Coast-Line and the West-Coast-Line. On the Danish side of the border, the Danish TSCNET customer Energinet continues the Middle Axis from Frøslev to the Kassø substation, thereby increasing the electricity trading capacity between Denmark and Germany. On 21 October, TenneT put officially into operation the two northern sections of the Middle Axis between the Audorf substation near Rendsburg and the border with Denmark. With a symbolic push of a button at the substation Handewitt near Flensburg, Thomas Bareiß, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Jan Philipp Albrecht, Minister of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature and Digitalisation of Schleswig-Holstein, Henrik Riis, CEO of Energinet-Eltransmission, and TenneT COO Tim Meyerjürgens connected the new 82 kilometres long power line to the grid.

The southern section of the Middle Axis from Hamburg/North to Audorf with a length of 70 kilometres was commissioned by TenneT in early 2018. Since 2015, a total of 388 new pylons have been erected along 152 kilometres between Hamburg/North and the border with Denmark, including the required substations Audorf/South, Schuby/West and Handewitt. The extension of the line by Energinet across the border by 30 kilometres into the Danish grid area increases security of supply for both the German and Danish electricity markets and enables the exchange of renewable energy between the two countries.

Tim Meyerjürgens explained: “With the 82 kilometres from Audorf to the Danish border, we are completing the important Middle Axis in the energy transition region of Schleswig-Holstein for the transmission of electricity from renewable sources between the river Elbe and Denmark.” Henrik Riis added: “The Middle Axis is a tremendous success, and it provides a new, continuous electricity highway that runs all the way from Denmark to Hamburg and on to Lower Saxony across the river Elbe. A strong cross-border infrastructure and well-functioning energy markets are essential for all of us – both at national and European level – to shape a future with high security of supply, large amounts of renewable energy and an efficient green energy transition.”

TenneT and Energinet commissioned the northern section of the Middle Axis, a new 380kV line from Denmark to Hamburg (picture showing from right to left Thomas Bareiß, Henrik Riis, Tim Meyerjürgens and Philipp Albrecht at the far left: TenneT)

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Combined Grid Solution inaugurated

20.10.2020

On 20 October, the world’s first hybrid offshore interconnector was ceremoniously put into operation: the Danish-German Combined Grid Solution (CGS). This interconnector in the Baltic Sea links the transmission grids of two countries via national offshore wind farm grid connections. For this purpose, two submarine cables with a length of merely 25 kilometres and a capacity of approx. 200MW each were laid between the offshore transformer platforms of the German wind farm Baltic 2 and the Kriegers Flak wind farm in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea, which is currently under construction. The CGS – a joint project of TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), and TSCNET customer Energinet, the TSO from Denmark – thus not only connects the platforms with each other but also the existing onshore connections of the wind farms. This allows the transmission of offshore wind power to Denmark or Germany and also cross-border electricity trading.

The official opening ceremony, which took place on site in the German capital of Berlin as well as digitally, was attended by Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Dan Jørgensen, the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, as well as Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy. With their appearance, these high-ranking political representatives acknowledged the CGS as a technical innovation with model character for future offshore power grids. The hybrid nature of CGS is that it is the first electricity interconnector between two countries, that not only provides capacity for electricity trading, but also transports offshore wind energy onshore – in both directions. The costs of the binational EU-funded project amount to around €300m.

A technical obstacle had to be solved in the realisation of CGS: Because the transmission grids in eastern Denmark and Germany do not operate synchronously, it was necessary to install a back-to-back converter at the 50Hertz substation in Bentwisch near the port city of Rostock in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The device converts the incoming AC into DC and immediately back. Only in this way is it possible for electricity to flow smoothly from Denmark to Germany and vice versa. But CGS has not only hardware but also software components. The central digital control unit of the system is the Master Controller for Interconnector Operation (MIO), located in the 50Hertz control centre near Berlin. The MIO balances market requirements with offshore electricity production, which depends on wind conditions in the Baltic Sea. Its main function is to ensure optimum use of the CGS while preventing any overload of the line and the operating facilities in the substation.

Stefan Kapferer, CEO of 50Hertz, commented at the inauguration: “With this project, 50Hertz and Energinet are pioneering the efficient integration of offshore wind farms into the cross-border European electricity market. It offers us several effective options to balance the frequency and voltage of our transmission grids at all times, to deal with the integration of renewable energy sources with more flexibility and to increase the stability of the overall system.” Thomas Egebo, CEO of Energinet, added: “The CGS is not only a very important milestone in reaching Denmark’s ambitious goal of a 100 percent green power system in 2030. The groundbreaking project also delivers an important building block for decarbonising the rest of the society.”

The Danish-German Combined Grid Solution has been ceremoniously put into operation (illustration uses photos of 50Hertz, one of which shows Minister Altmeier)

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Improving biodiversity for submarine cabling

15.10.2020

Looking at the big picture – the energy transition and the achievement of the European climate targets – there is no alternative to expanding offshore capacity for the generation and transmission of North Sea wind power. For that reason, both the Dutch and German governments have set ambitious targets for offshore expansion, which the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is gradually implementing and has even exceeded for its German North Sea control area. In the individual case, however, each offshore construction and operational measure obviously has an impact on the valuable North Sea and Wadden Sea ecosystems. As TenneT strives to apply and monitor nature-friendly solutions in all of its offshore grid projects, the TSO is now conducting pilot tests with stone coverings of submarine cable intersections.

When the TSCNET shareholder lays submarine cables, e.g. currently for the high-voltage connection of the Hollandse Kust (zuid) wind region, the cables sometimes cross with existing oil and gas pipelines. In such cases, the cables protrude above the seabed and are usually covered with a layer of granite to protect them. To replace granite with alternative solutions that promote biodiversity, TenneT has launched a pilot project in collaboration with the offshore specialist company Van Oord. In this project, different types of stones are deposited at cable crossings to investigate which of these stimulates biodiversity best. In total, the pilot involves twelve locations in the North Sea. In the case of the first six, recently laid submarine cables already cross existing oil and gas pipelines. Another six intersections will follow during the construction of the Hollandse Kust (Zuid) connection in 2021.

On 14 October, the different stones were loaded onto Van Oord’s special vessel to be placed at the cable intersections in the coming weeks. Among them are small calciferous stones from a marble quarry, which are placed at three of the six cable intersections. Comparison with the other three intersections without calciferous stones will allow to assess the difference in the type of marine life developing at these intersections. “Our expectation is that the calciferous stones will ensure that various benthic species will find it easier to nest here and that a different habitat will emerge at these sites. Over the years, ‛artificial reefs’ can emerge at these sites in the North Sea, where plants and small creatures can settle,” explains Saskia Jaarsma, Head Offshore Developments and Large Projects Offshore at TenneT.

TenneT has launched a pilot project to promote biodiversity at submarine cable intersections (picture: Van Oord)

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Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde line put in operation

05.10.2020

With the Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde line, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT has commissioned an important grid expansion project for the German and European energy transition. The 380kV line from the new substation Fedderwarden near Wilhelmshaven on the German North Sea coast to the Conneforde substation in Ammerland, both in the federal state of Lower Saxony, is not only crucial for the transmission of mainly wind power and electricity from regional generators, but also for strengthening security of supply in northern Lower Saxony. Furthermore, it represents a novelty for the TSCNET shareholder in terms of technical implementation: “With this new line, we have put into operation the first pilot project with two underground cable sections in three-phase technology and connected it to the meshed power grid in Germany,” explained Tim Meyerjürgens, COO of TenneT.

The commissioning ceremony on 2 October 2020 in Fedderwarden was attended by representatives from politics, including Andreas Feicht, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, and Energy and Olaf Lies, Minister for the Environment, Energy, Construction, and Climate Protection of Lower Saxony. The new line is only about 30 kilometres long, but – together with the new construction of the Fedderwarden substation – “of great importance for the entire European electricity trade”, commented Olaf Lies. The Minister was impressed by TenneT’s latest milestone in the energy transition. State Secretary Feicht referred to the newly gained potential for integrating large amounts of wind power into the German electricity market and the technical relevance of the pilot project: “Knowledge obtained in such pilot projects about the construction and operation of the technology will be of great benefit for further power grid expansion in the future.”

The line project was successfully completed after less than two years of construction. Almost 5 kilometres of the line were implemented as underground cables. However, even if TenneT can be satisfied with what has been accomplished so far and is strongly committed to expanding the transmission of green electricity throughout its entire grid area, Meyerjürgens sees a need for further action, especially in view of the increasing offshore wind volumes: “Still, we already see today a further demand for expansion in the Wilhelmshaven and Friesland region.”

TenneT commissioned the new Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde line (picture: TenneT)

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TenneT commissions North German grid node

02.10.2020

The town of Wilster is located about 10 kilometres north of the Elbe river in the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, which falls within the control area of the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) Tennet. Schleswig-Holstein is of eminent importance for the generation of wind power. In Wilster, after a four-year construction period, the TSCNET shareholder commissioned the renewed Wilster/West substation on 1 October, a significant grid node for the energy transition in the north and beyond. This is because the so-called Westküstenleitung (West-Coast-Line), the NordLink interconnector, which directly links the electricity markets of Germany and Norway, are converging here – and later also the SuedLink “electricity highway” for the transmission of green electricity to the German consumption centres.

For the two high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission projects NordLink and SuedLink, the capacity of the former Wilster/West substation was no longer sufficient. An extension of the switchgear was necessary to exclude impermissible load flows and guarantee the short-circuit resistance required in future. Thus, a new 380kV switchgear was built on the ground of the former 380kV substation and the new construction now replaces the old substation on the same site. Furthermore, the connection facilities for the converter stations of SuedLink and NordLink had to be provided. And finally, a 110kV switchgear was installed, which enables the dismantling of the 220kV switchgear in the near substation Itzehoe-West.

“This substation is a central hub for electricity transmission from north to south,” explains TenneT’s COO Tim Meyerjürgens. “Here, electricity from renewable sources is fed into the grid and distributed to regions with high consumption. The Wilster area is of outstanding importance for the energy transition. Because in the grid area between Wilster, Brokdorf, Itzehoe, and Brunsbüttel, three new extra-high voltage lines from TenneT converge: the Westküstenleitung, NordLink, and later also SuedLink.”

TenneT has put into operation the new substation Wilster/West (picture: TenneT)

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Deep Dig-It starts work for Hollandse Kust (zuid) grid

24.09.2020

Hollandse Kust (zuid), an offshore wind area in the Dutch North Sea, is located a good 20 kilometres off the coast of the Dutch province of Zuid-Holland. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is installing the related offshore grid to connect the new offshore wind farms in the area via two offshore platforms and submarine cables to the onshore high-voltage substation that is being built in the Maasvlakte industrial and port area. The jacket for the first of these two offshore platforms has recently been installed and the offshore connection project is now making further progress with the start of the laying of the submarine cables on 22 September.

Four 220kV AC cables with a total length of 42 kilometres each are to be installed in the seabed, of which the first two to the Alpha platform will be laid this year. The other two to the Beta platform will follow in 2021. First, the two cables were brought ashore to the planned Maasvlakte substation via direct drilling. Thereupon the TSCNET shareholder started the marine installation, with the first ten kilometres of the route from the coast at Maasvlakte being extremely challenging. Over this distance, the cables cross the entrance to the port of Rotterdam – Europe’s busiest cargo port – and thus need to be buried more than 5.5 metres deep. For this purpose, the contracted specialist company Van Oord uses its Deep Dig-It trencher, an enormous remote-controlled trencher.

The Deep Dig-It is one of the largest and most powerful devices in its class. The trencher weighs 125 tonnes, is more than 17 metres long, well over 8 metres high, and 11 metres wide. With its enormous power it can bury cables deeply even in very hard ground. The trencher is controlled from an offshore installation vessel equipped with a crane to lower and lift out the high-performance machine. The Deep Dig-It moves unmanned over the seabed and creates a deep trench for the cables by liquefying the seabed. Simultaneously, the Deep Dig-It inserts the cables into the trench and seals the seabed afterwards. With work progressing well, Tennet expects the 1,400MW Hollandse Kust (zuid) grid connection to be completed in 2022.

TenneT has started the laying of submarine cables for the Hollandse Kust (zuid) grid connection (picture: Van Oord)

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Cooperation to link offshore wind farms

22.09.2020

Realising the full potential of offshore wind energy in the North Sea will be crucial for the decarbonisation of the European economy and society. The transmission system operators (TSOs), whose control areas border the North Sea, are aware of this, including the Dutch-German TSO TenneT and National Grid from the UK. Both the Netherlands and the UK have set ambitious targets for their respective development of wind capacity in the North Sea. However, to achieve large-scale growth in offshore wind energy, significant amounts of new infrastructure and close cooperation between the countries around the North Sea will be essential.

On 22 September, TenneT and National Grid announced a cooperation agreement to examine the feasibility of interconnecting Dutch and British wind farms to the energy systems of both countries via submarine cables. The announcement is following a recent decision by the Dutch government to secure the first 2GW offshore transmission grids for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) in the Netherlands for the IJmuiden Ver wind farm zone, located some 80km off the Dutch north-west coast. Under the cooperation agreement, TenneT and National Grid will explore the development of a multi-purpose interconnector (MPI) to simultaneously connect up to 4GW of Dutch and British offshore wind energy between the two national electricity systems, thereby creating an additional 2GW of interconnection capacity.

By connecting to both systems, the MPI will allow the use of free transmission capacity for electricity trade between the two countries, thus improving the utilisation of offshore infrastructure – and possibly decreasing the need for additional infrastructure. This will also reduce the environmental impact on coastal communities compared to the current approach of separately developing and connecting interconnectors and wind farms. The two TSOs intend to have defined a “pathfinder project” by the end of 2021 with the aim of creating an operational system by 2029.

Manon van Beek, CEO of TenneT, comments on the agreement: “TenneT has been at the forefront of developing multi-purpose interconnection to enable the large-scale growth of offshore wind in the North Sea. This agreement allows us to work with National Grid in the North Sea to develop innovative infrastructure that uses every spare electron of offshore wind generation to reach our decarbonisation targets.”

TenneT has concluded an agreement with National Grid to investigate the interconnection of UK and Dutch offshore wind farms (exemplary picture: TenneT)

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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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Jacket for Hollandse Kust (zuid) Alpha platform installed

08.09.2020

The offshore wind area Hollandse Kust (zuid) is located 22 kilometres off the coast of the Dutch province of Zuid-Holland. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT will connect the wind farms in this area to the onshore substation in the industrial and port area of Maasvlakte via two offshore platforms – Alpha and Beta – and submarine cables. The jacket for the Hollandse Kust (zuid) Alpha platform was transported to the operation site by a heavy-duty vessel on 5 September and successfully installed on the seabed. The Alpha jacket is 29 meters long, 20 meters wide, 46 meters high and weighs 3200 tonnes. It will be further installed in the coming days.

The two 220kv submarine cables will be connected to the jacket over the next few months. In 2021, the platform top side will be placed on the jacket. The Hollandse Kust (zuid) Alpha platform is expected to be operational by the end of 2021. The projects in this new wind area are part of the large-scale offshore expansion programme of TenneT. By the end of 2023, the TSCNET shareholder will have installed 3.5GW of offshore grid connections in the Netherlands, of which the first 1.4GW have already been achieved with Borssele Alpha and Beta. The connection to follow Hollandse Kust (south) will be Hollandse Kust (nord). For all the wind farms in these two areas, TenneT will deploy five identical 700MW transformer platforms and identical 220kV cable connections. “Such standardisation enables TenneT to complete these projects more efficiently, more quickly, and more economically,” explains TenneT COO Tim Meyerjürgens.

The Dutch national roadmap for offshore development provides for an additional 6.1GW of offshore wind farms in the wind energy areas Hollandse Kust (West), Ten Noorden van de Waddeneilanden, and IJmuiden Ver from 2024 to the end of 2030. For the first two areas, TenneT will again use standardised 700MW offshore platforms. The efficient connection of IJmuiden Ver, which is located further out in the North Sea, partly requires other technologies based on DC instead of AC. IJmuiden Ver will have two offshore transformer platforms with a capacity of 2GW each, which is unique in the offshore wind industry.

TenneT has installed the jacket for the Hollandse Kust (zuid) Alpha platform (picture: TenneT)

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