The construction period for the "Power Grid Control" in Vienna's Unterlaa amounted to two years, with a total investment of around 19 million Euro.
"The Power Grid Control is the operative regulation and control centre for the domestic power supply and therewith the nerve centre in Austria’s power grid. It is here that around 100,000 electricity import or export time tables are entered, controlled and optimized for the high- and extra-high-voltage grid," explains Heinz Kaupa, chairman of VERBUND-Austrian Power Grid AG.
The new development was urgently required on account of the continually increasing demands of recent years. The power grid operators face new challenges due to the liberalization of the electricity market and the greater merging together of the Austrian power grid with the European grid as a whole. In addition to this, there is the increased expansion of weather-dependent renewable energies and increasing long-term electricity consumption. Investments in grids and also in the control unit are the right response to this.
Austria's central role in the European power grid
The task of VERBUND-Austrian Power Grid AG and especially that of the new Power Grid Control is to be seen in relation to the European power transmission. Austria’s central role in the European power grid (ENTSO-E European Network of System Operators for Electricity) is down to the country’s geographic location in the heart of Europe.
Particularly in times in which the volatility of the grid is strongly increasing, due to the expansion of more weather-dependent renewable energies (e.g. through the expansion of wind power in northern Germany), it is imperative, for the entire European supply security, that each individual country recognizes its responsibility accordingly. Here too, the new Power Grid Control makes an important contribution that extends far beyond the borders of Austria.
Focusing on security of supply
The electricity control centre, Power Grid Control, is essential for supply security. "In this nerve centre of the Austrian power grid, supply and demand is managed in such a way that peaks are balanced out through the feeding in of electricity from wind power with other sources, for example, as well as the highly variable, seasonally occurring demands of the consumers," said Minister of Economics and Energy, Reinhold Mitterlehner. "In the expansion of renewable energies, wind power from East Austria will have an important share alongside that of hydropower. In this respect, this is also a reason why the control centre has an important task to fulfil."
The electricity industry is a source of inspiration in economically difficult times
"The Verbund Group, as well as the energy industry as a whole, is an important source of inspiration in economically difficult times. Thus, within the framework of the grid master plan alone, Verbund is planning investments of around 1 billion Euro in the modernization and upgrading of its grid by 2020. An important contribution to the realization of this investment is being made with the Power Grid Control," says Verbund chairman, Wolfgang Anzengruber.
Key tasks for Power Grid Control
The Power Grid Control is to the Austrian power grid what the "control tower" is to aviation. Just like at an airport, a total of 28 employees monitor and regulate all flows of current in the grid. They are responsible for the safe and efficient grid management in Austria. This encompasses:
- The temporal coordination and cooperation with the control centres of Central Europe
- The 24-hour monitoring and controlling of the grid operation
- The management of the grid operation and electricity transportation for 3,700 km lines in the power grid and supergrid of VERBUND-Austrian Power Grid AG, embedded in the 200,000 km long European grid
- The coordination, planning and input of around 100,000 deliveries and transportations of electricity per year
- The coordination of outages in the grid, e.g. for the maintenance of lines
- The optimization of power flow programs in the power grid – the new Power Grid Control enables the existing lines to be optimally controlled in order to avoid loss of power
- Bottleneck management in the entire power grid and supergrid to prevent grid overload and supply disruptions
- Remote control of transformer stations
- The coordination, planning and agreement with grid partners, both at home and abroad
Getting ready for the future: The impetus for the Power Grid Control project
The decisive impetus for the construction of the Power Grid Control was delivered by the introduction of a quality management system at VERBUND-Austrian Power Grid AG, in accordance with ISO 9001. Based upon comprehensive analyses, this management system showed the necessity of a new control centre in order to be able to satisfy the constantly increasing national und international challenges. Parallel to this, a separate RESERVE control centre was erected locally in order to be able to continue to sustain all functions in the event of an outage of the Power Grid Control.
Highly qualified employees at Power Grid Control
The 28 Power Grid Control employees have undergone at least two years of continuous training, which also includes complex simulation training alongside theoretical and practical training. After the introduction, this training comprises 23 modules for which examinations must also be taken.
How current flows – visitor opportunities at Power Grid Control
The new Power Grid Control will also be accessible to the public. In principle, the Power Grid Control is of course a "safety zone", but its planning has also allowed for an area where pre-registered visitors can become acquainted with the work and technical procedures within the framework of a guided tour. Here, visitors can experience how electrical current flows in Austria.