In the energy sphere Europe is growing ever closer together. A visit to the work on the Wesel–Doetinchem route, where Amprion is building a new 57-kilometre power bridge between Germany and the Netherlands.

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Novel design: between Millingen substation and the Dutch border Amprion is trialling a new type of pylon.

The 35-metre long tubes hang vertically from a crane. The operator man­oeuvres them over the circle of anchor bolts on a concrete base and lowers the tubes carefully onto them. The tubes in question are the shafts for a new type of pylon which Amprion is erecting in Isselburg close to the Dutch border: the solid panel pylon. Once erected, they are about 60 metres tall and feature three curved cross-arms. During the project Amprion aims to gain technical and commercial experience in the erection and operation of these new pylons. In addition, the company wants to test whether the new design gains greater acceptance among the general public. “Through projects like these we extend our line construction tool kit, helping us implement every project in the optimum way”, says Dr Christoph Gehlen, Amprion’s head of power line construction.

Securely fastened: 60 anchor bolts fasten the pylon shaft to the concrete foundations.

A total of 22 solid panel pylons are being deployed along the seven-kilometre section leading up to the national border. The pylons form a visually harmonious match with the design of the Dutch Wintrack pylons which convey the power lines onward to Doetinchem in the province of Gelderland. Thanks to this cross-border connection the German and Dutch transmission network will grow even closer together. And that yields many benefits, as Martin Finkelmann, Head of Long-term Grid Planning at Amprion, explains: “The more closely we link up different grids at supra-regional level, the more secure the power supply becomes”.

»Electricity exports from Germany to its neighbouring countries rose by almost 90 % between 2011 and 2017.«

Martin Finkelmann,

Head of long-term grid planning at Amprion

Aiming high: installing the pylon head is an aerial affair.

Today the Amprion grid is already connected with the transmission networks in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland and Austria. Experts call these European power bridges interconnectors. Not only do they make national grids more secure, they also offer a platform for a Europe-wide electricity market. “Electricity exports from Germany to its neighbouring countries rose by almost 90 % between 2011 and 2017, whereas imports almost halved”, says Finkelmann. “In parallel with this the market price of electricity has fallen by a third due to the high proportion of renewable energy in Germany.” Attractive electricity prices promote cross-border trading, and that pushes grids to the limits of their capacity, leading to bottlenecks.

Major construction site: the individual components of the solid panel pylons reach 35 metres in length, and some weigh over 50 tonnes.

The planned power line between Wesel and Doetinchem should provide relief here. It will significantly increase the transmission capacity between the grids in Germany and the Netherlands. The three existing interconnectors can transport around three gigawatts – enough to cover the needs of around three million people as and when necessary. The new power line is expected to increase the potential transfer capacity by a further 1.5 gigawatts. To ensure that the power flows freely in future, teamwork will be needed. On the German side Amprion is constructing a power line some 30 kilometres long – seven kilometres using the solid panel pylons, with lattice steel pylons over the remainder of the route. The Dutch transmission system operator TenneT is responsible for the construction and operation of the adjoining part of the route. “In a joint feasibility study we showed that the power flows can be distributed significantly better with four interconnectors. That means we are increasing system security in both countries,” explains Martin Finkelmann. The new power bridge is scheduled to come on line in 2018, and when one enquires why it is needed in Germany or the Netherlands, the phrase “energy transition” springs to people’s lips on both sides of the border.


Text: Alexandra Brandt | Photos: Marcus Pietrek

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