Writer: Mel Kroon, CEO TenneT
European infrastructure has local impact. With the Randstad Project, TenneT has taken an innovative approach to grid solutions: stakeholder involvement, new mast design and partial undergrounding solutions make the TenneT Randstad Project in the Netherlands a best practice for grid solutions in Europe.
Listening to local communities and NGOs
Taking care of local and NGO interests is more than informing – it means listening to people, understanding their interests and integrating them whenever possible into projects. TenneT is fully aware that high-voltage lines enter the social environment of local people. When installing new overhead lines, TenneT tries to avoid affecting residential as well as natural conservation areas.
When existing lines are involved, TenneT works extensively with stakeholders to minimize the impact. In 2013, the Dutch government launched a 15-year cabling program, focused on 150 kV lines in urban areas. The project aims to address the social concerns of people living close to these lines. TenneT has been deeply involved in the process, working with government and municipal authorities on implementation possibilities, and also looking closely at the legislation framework. At TenneT it is common practice to reach out to local stakeholders, in regular public feedback information sessions. In Germany alone, with a view to the large onshore projects underway, more than 500 of these sessions are planned in 2014. Tennet facilitates this community engagement long before official licensing procedures start so that stakeholders really have the chance to weigh in on the project design from the beginning.
Reducing impact with new mast designs
The new slim-line Wintrack pylon which TenneT developed is a good example of an innovative solution that addresses an important issue raised by our local stakeholders: minimizing the impact of our projects on the environment and society. Wintrack pylons allow our infrastructure to blend into the landscape, being less visually intrusive than conventional designs, and reducing the width of the electromagnetic field zone. These play an important role in helping TenneT gain acceptance for pylons above ground. Achieving this kind of societal acceptance is essential if we are going to realize the projects that are necessary to achieve the energy transition on time. TenneT is conscious that the impact of its projects on nature and local habitats can be significant and we seek to comply with all applicable environmental laws and regulations.
TenneT takes extensive steps to minimize its impact, often through intensive analysis and by commissioning reports detailing the potential impact on the environment. TenneT then seeks to mitigate and compensate for any impact wherever possible. Tennet is confident that its approach of building environmental consensus while engaging with local and regional coalitions contributes to improving the acceptance of grid infrastructure.
Innovation: partial underground solutions
Energy infrastructure is often considered intrusive, both esthetically in people’s backyards and in nearby forests or in agricultural fields. As a result, underground construction of lines is becoming an increasing area of focus. Currently, TenneT is installing 20 km of 380 kV underground cables in the densely populated Dutch Randstad region, with 10 kilometers already in use. The length of this stretch, and the scope of the project, is making it a global leader today. Together with researchers from the technical University of Delft, and in participation with the technical University of Eindhoven, TenneT is monitoring the results and the influence on the stability of the grid. In Germany, TenneT has launched a common initiative with Europacable and the Universities of Hannover and Delft to monitor the future German cable pilot projects appointed by German law. In January 2013, TenneT and Europacable announced that they endorse:
- The deployment of partial undergrounding in sensitive areas in the context of an accelerated realization of the cable pilot projects
- The creation of an evaluation program for partial undergrounding accompanied by independent scientific experts
- The creation of framework requirements for partial undergrounding for future projects of the German transmission grid following the completion of the evaluation program
TenneT is convinced that its innovative approach to grid solutions will contribute to overcoming Europe’s grid bottlenecks. They still have a lot to learn and it is important to caution that a fully undergrounded 380 kV grid is a long way from completion. It is essential that stakeholders understand the limitations of what is possible and the obstacles that need to be overcome, not least underground treasures, like archaeological remains, that need to be protected. This is far more complex than is widely realized. This said, there has been much progress made thus far.
This article appeared in Revolve’s special Cable Power report, read it in full here.