Grid Expansion in Germany and Europe

Grid Expansion in Germany and Europe
Nadja Pappenberger Business Development Managerin
In Germany and in Europe, the expansion of our power supply sytem increasingly gains significance. Nadja Pappenberger offers exciting insights into this field.

How is the power produced and where is it originating from?

Electrical power is generated in multiple ways, still from nuclear power as well as by combustion of fossil fuels, e.g. coal. Renewable energy on the other hand is being generated by e.g. hydroelectric power plants, wind energy converters or photo­voltaics without climate-damaging emissions, at least during penergy production. The efficiency of these facilities varies depending on the facility’s location so they are to a greater or lesser extent profitable.
Other than those finite ressources of fossil energy production, the sources of renewable energy are infinite ro at least renew relatively quickly.


What’s the status quo in Germany?

Triggered by the nuclear accident in Fukushima/Japan, Germany pioneered in starting the energy transition. Nuclear power has been imposed with an expiry date, and power supply by fossil fuels is not compatible with the existing climate protection objectives. Hence, new ways of energy production have to be established on a large-scale, and the share of renewable energy increases consistantly. Therefore, further expansion of wind energy converters is a key focus, particularly in the Northern and in the Baltic Sea along with a shift from decentralized energy production towards a central energy supply, e.g. offshore wind converter parks in the Northern Sea. 

Nuclear energy has an expiration date.
© Petra Schmidt/

How is grid expansion developing in Europe?

Actually, grid expansion is a pan-European issue as power suppply lines do not stop at a country‘s frontiers. Partic­u­larly, the unsuf­fi­ciently developed German power grid has caused major problems and near blackouts in neigh­bour­ing Poland, but also in more distant countries like Spain. The European grid is inter­con­nected so as to collect but also release peaks in production as well as in consumption. 

But: Power that has been released into the power lines will move up to that point where it is being utilized. And: Power follows the physical principle of flowing the way with the least resistence and therfore might take the way through a less utilitzed power line, ending up making its way through e.g. Poland. The problem with this prolonged current flow is that it is not planned for, and this on the other hand might overload the supply line and in worst case cause a blackout. These unplanned current flows are so-called ring closures and unfor­tu­nately are not that rare. So the unsuf­fi­ciently developed German grid in combination with Germany’s location right in the centre of Europe represent a serious problem from a European point of view.  

© bluedesign/

What is the "NOVA principle"?

It is a concept of prof­itabil­ity. Simplified it means grid opti­miza­tion before grid enhancement before grid expansion. Simple measures exist to increase the electrical current flow, e.g. by deliberate monitoring of the power lines. And cooled power lines are able to transport more power than uncooled ones. Therefore, power lines above ground on windy cooler days will transport more power than on hot windless days. Then there are existing 200kV lines that could be enhanced to 380kV by means of reincorcing measures. Also in this case the existing lines would remain utilized. Last but not least comes the expansion, meaning finding new routes which is not all that easy in Germany. 

What impact does the grid expansion have on humans and the environment?

Regarding the impact on humans the question should be the other way around as it’s us humans who demand for the grid to be expanded. We shouldn‘t forget that aspect. Nobody is willing to go without electrical power; e.g. hospitals, waterworks, water treatment plants and municipal waste combusters need to be kept running. Our modern life is unthinkable without electrical power. 
At the same time, no-one wants to have a utility pole standing in their backyard or to live next door to a transformer station. In Germany, regulations exist on how close to a residential area the power supply line may be built. Ironically, there are no existing regulations on how close to a power supply line a residential area may be developed. With regards to the environment it is a difficult matter as large infrastructural measures always do interfere with the environment. 

Often times, those areas are affected that explicidly are under protection and rightly so. Currently, for example the Fulda-Main-supply line is being planned, leading right through the Rhön area which is a protected biosphere reserve. For these cases of protected areas that are nevertheless essential for infrastructural measures, German government specifies for compensation areas to be created. 
With regards to grid expansion however it might be worth taking into consideration to overrule the protection of local areas by protecting the environment on a larger scale. If global warming persists, there might be no areas or species left to protect. 

CDM Smith offers manifold services. In addition to consulting, coordination and management services, we also provide technical construction planning, foundation consultation as well as ecological construction supervision.
Nadja Pappenberger Nadja Pappenberger
Apart from the familiar power grid expansion, the development of our broadband network as well as of hydrogen pipelines are increasingly becoming significant.
Nadja Pappenberger Business Development Managerin