Grid operators get ready for climate change

More frequent extreme weather events endanger power grids and impair the stability of supply and operational management. Grid operators mitigate this development with precise weather data.

Karlsruhe, 11 February 2020 – Germany is the country third most affected by extreme weather worldwide. This is the conclusion of a study presented at the World Climate Summit in Madrid by the think tank Germanwatch.

Extreme weather events cause more power outages

In 2018, in Germany extreme weather induced damages amount to 4.5 billion euros. This concerns power grids in particular. According to the regulator Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), the average length of severe weather induced power failures rose significantly from 12.8 to 15.14 minutes in 2017 compared to 2016, but decreased again to 13.9 in 2018.

Also 2019 turned out to be a challenging year. Autumn storm AMALIE cut the power supply of 140,000 households in southwestern France with hurricane-like winds in early November. The same month, enormous amounts of wet snow caused the entire power grid in the Austrian province East Tyrol to collapse. A severe storm had previously hit the port city of Genoa in Northern Italy and paralyzed large parts of the grid.

Lightning hazard and liability risks

Lightning strokes and storms constitute severe challenges for grid operators. Lightning activity very often causes disruptions, whereas storms can result in significant compensation payments. The latter because power cuts with wind speed levels of less than 10 are legally not recognized as force majeure. Consequently, grid operators are obliged to provide full compensation.

Well-known grid operators such as 50Hertz or Syna therefore rely on high-quality customized solutions. «Syna obtains extensive meteorological information for the grid control system from UBIMET. They also include real-time lightning data and severe weather warnings for the entire grid area. Reliable data in real-time, providing the highest accuracy, is essential for us as a distribution grid operator», says Jürgen Köchling, technical manager of Syna, Süwag’s subsidiary for grid operations.

Heat waves endanger grid stability

Temperature extremes are on the rise as well. «Just think about last summer in Germany with temperatures above 40 degrees for days», states Alexander Lehmann, trained meteorologist and managing director of UBIMET’s energy competence center in Karlsruhe. The warmer it gets, the more critical the transmission grid’s condition becomes, as overhead lines are only designed for operations of up to 35 degrees. Thus, to avoid critical situations in the first place, it is of vital importance to monitor them.

Additionally, the rapid growth of renewables massively increases the need to transport electricity. According to a well-known transmission grid operator, overhead line monitoring can increase transmission capacity of existing lines by 80 percent under favorable conditions. Necessary precondition to achieve this is precise weather data along its route. UBIMET currently provides it in a resolution of 100 m.

PrognoNetz: Artificial Intelligence improving transmission capacity

Together with transmission grid operator TransnetBW, UBIMET is working to further improve overhead line monitoring. «The research project PrognoNetz will enable smart power lines by using Artificial Intelligence to optimally adapt electricity flow to weather conditions in real-time and thus providing higher transmission capacity» explains TransnetBW CEO Dr. Werner Götz.

From February 11 to February 13 UBIMET presents its high-precision meteorological solutions for the energy industry @ E-world 2020 in Essen, Germany. (Hall 3 – Booth 351).