ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) is one of the world’s leading universities of technology and natural sciences. Countless scientists of international standing have contributed their intellect since the foundation of ETH Zurich in 1855, while 21 of them have won a Nobel Prize.
The increasing complexity of the European electricity network and a liberalised electricity market are resulting in rapid changes in the load flow. This dynamic can have serious consequences, including a blackout. Given the essential role played by Switzerland as a transit country for electricity, it is critical that the secure conducting of electricity is optimised continuously.
The maximum current carrying capacity of a line is also determined by the thermal limit of the conductors. In a world-first project, Swissgrid is working together with ETH Zurich, EMPA and meteorological services, using state-of-the-art methods of measurement on the transmission grid line and in the laboratory, to gain important insights into the maximum current carrying capacity and the ageing behaviour of conductors to ensure the security of the grid in the future.
Another joint research project between Swissgrid and ETH Zurich, as part of a project for the Swiss National Science Foundation and in cooperation with additional partners, is investigating the potential of the alternative transmission concept of direct/alternating-current hybrid lines as well as their feasibility in Switzerland, in compliance with all the specific requirements. Hybrid lines would allow existing routes to be used to transport higher transmission capacities without major renovations. This could be a solution for the Swiss transmission grid, which is already reaching its limits.
Innovation is a priority at Swissgrid. We are constantly working on gaining new insights, new methods of operation and technologies across all areas. This also applies for education.
In cooperation with the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg, Swissgrid has developed Switzerland's first certified vocational training course for system operators, the CAS “Electrical energy systems – system operation”. Operators must always make the right decisions in a complex environment, with changing interfaces, technologies and tools, often under time pressure, while keeping an eye on grid security and efficiency and ensuring optimal responses in normal as well as hectic situations. The new course provides optimal preparation for these challenges.
At the same time, Swissgrid is also implementing a nationwide Training & Simulation Centre to train and educate personnel in the control centres of the transmission and distribution grid and in power plants. Realistic computer simulations of the system operation as well as grid faults and grid failures can be implemented with the aid of models and the replication of the Swiss electricity grids. The focus is on practicing situational assessments, fault limitation measures and restoring a secure grid status.
Swissgrid issues tenders every week to procure control power for secure grid operation. The surcharges are granted using an algorithm, which determines the costs/quantity and quality. In 2015, Swissgrid was able to optimise this algorithm so that the results are now available within one to two minutes instead of 40 minutes. The time gained gives Swissgrid more latitude in case of unexpected events or control processes and, for instance, reduces financial risks.
The frequency measurement values are important for balancing the Swiss control area and for monitoring the grid frequency. This information can be used to ensure a consistently high level of control quality in Switzerland. The operator in the grid control room can also promptly detect at-risk or disrupted circumstances and act accordingly. In 2015, Swissgrid commissioned a prototype for high-precision frequency measurement: frequency is not only measured in the control centre in Laufenburg, but in five other substations across all regions of Switzerland. This increases robustness and redundancy, as adequate measurements for subsequent grid restoration are now also available in the event of a grid breakdown in isolated grids.