APG employees in substation
Upper Austria (Central Region) Electric Transmission Infrastructure
The “grid of the future” will be well equipped to support the Upper Austria central region’s long-term development by providing a secure, efficient and ample supply of electricity.

Future grid for upper austria

From 1990 to 2016 alone, consumption in Upper Austria surged by 65%. Based on this trend, the power grid in the central region of Upper Austria will reach the limits of its capacity in just a few years.

The current 110-kV grid is not equipped to transport the amount of power that will be needed going forward to support the dynamic pace of development in the central region of Upper Austria. This is why Austrian Power Grid (APG), Netz Oberösterreich GmbH (Netz OÖ) and LINZ NETZ GmbH (LINZ NETZ) are working together to transform the power grid to meet the region’s future supply needs.

Plans to construct a 220-kV supply ring to replace the existing 110-kV lines are already underway. Once completed, the ring will join the substations at Ernsthofen, Pichling, Hütte Süd, Wegscheid and Kronstorf. The overall concept agreed between the TSOs consists of replacing certain line sections with new lines and increasing the voltage in the line sections already equipped for 220-kV operation. Converting to a higher voltage will permit higher volumes of electrical energy to be transmitted in the future.

The general evolution of Upper Austria’s central region in combination with specific plans for the future mean that the region’s electricity needs and the demands on the grid will only increase as time goes on:

  • The population in the Linz, Wels and Steyr demand centres is forecast to increase by 16.5% to around 340,000 people by 2040 (according to the 2015 projection from the state of Upper Austria).
  • In addition, the Enns-Steyr region is evolving into a dynamic economic area with major growth potential.
  • voestalpine AG will raise its power needs as it gradually replaces its blast furnaces with new, low-carbon technologies.
  • The proportion of energy from renewables needs to be significantly higher in order to reach the agreed climate targets, which calls for high-performance, stable power grids.

Timeline

Planning and preparation of the project documents
Examination authority procedure
Earliest start of construction
What will the visual impact of the new lines be?

The types of masts to be used for the new line sections will be decided on in the course of planning the project. The illustration below shows examples of “tons” and “danube” masts for 220-kV lines and for one 220/110-kV line. Either tons masts or danube masts will most likely be used for the western line section between the Kronstorf substation and the Asten connection point. Plans for the eastern line section from the Ernsthofen substation to Asten and from Wegscheid towards Hütte Süd involve running 110-kV line systems along the “220/110-kV” mast type.

However, it is not only the voltage levels that determine how high the line masts will be at the respective locations. Local conditions play one of the biggest roles here. The most important factors are:

  • the distance to be covered between two masts
  • the type of terrain within a voltage field (e.g. hilly terrain)
  • potential obstacles to be traversed (e.g. other lines or roads)
  • whether 110-kV lines will run alongside the higher-voltage lines (double circuit lines)

The mast heights will be optimised during the planning phase based on the above criteria. More information will be provided at the planned citizens’ information events and via in-person discussions with property owners and other local stakeholders.

Compensation for land appropriation

My land is being appropriated for the “Upper Austria (Central Region) electric transmission infrastructure” project.

Properties may be impacted by our power lines in one of three ways:

  • by erection of a transmission tower;
  • by installation of overhead transmission lines (whereby only the land within the easement area through which the lines run is impacted); or
  • by clearing forested areas. 

The compensation to be paid for the use of land (including agricultural land and forested areas) is stipulated in a framework agreement applicable to all landowners. Guaranteeing a uniform process and equal treatment of all property owners is of the utmost priority for APG, Netz OÖ and LINZ NETZ, the project sponsors.

The framework agreement governs the calculation of the compensation stipulated in the private-law easement agreement to be entered into with all property owners. It also stipulates general conditions for building and operating transmission line systems, thus ensuring a uniform, appropriate and cooperative procedure in appropriating land.

If the land to be appropriated is agricultural land that is used for farming, the compensation to be paid for the area traversed by transmission lines is calculated on the basis of the framework agreement. Variations in market values in the project region are taken into account in the calculation.

However, if the appropriated land is forested area that must be cleared in order to install the lines or for operational purposes, the compensation to be paid is assessed by an expert on the basis of the framework agreement. The assessment is made in accordance with recognised methods for appraising the value of forested areas.

The project sponsors have also agreed to pay compensation for any damage to land used for agricultural or horticultural purposes in accordance with the “Compensation guidelines for the use of agriculture and forest land” issued by the Upper Austria Chamber of Agriculture.

The next steps: reviewing environmental impact

The “Upper Austria (Central Region) electric transmission infrastructure” project is not only extremely comprehensive in scope, but is also of major significance for the supply of power to the region. For that reason, the project will be subjected to very close official scrutiny in the context of the environmental impact assessment (EIA). The EIA process is designed to ensure that all elements of the project are presented in a transparent manner and that all stakeholders (e.g. property owners, local communities, etc.) are able to inspect and comment on the project documents.

In preparation for commencing project planning in the spring of 2019, the project partners (APG, Netz OÖ and LINZ NETZ) have requested preliminary works approval from the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism and the Upper Austrian state government. Such approvals represent the legal basis for planning the work to be done as well as for conducting surveys on private property.
 
Once the approvals are granted, the documents required for the environmental impact statement (EIS) will be prepared in an intense planning phase scheduled to last until the spring of 2021. The EIS is a key component of the subsequent environmental impact assessment process and includes, along with a description of the project, all environmentally relevant data. Together with the application for approval and the technical documentation, the EIS will be submitted to the EIA authorities responsible for the assessment procedure (the state governments of Upper and Lower Austria).

The description of the “Upper Austria (Central Region) electric transmission infrastructure” project contained in the EIS, with its portrayal of the current state of the impacted environs (people and nature) will form the basis for submissions from approximately 20 experts. In addition to describing all structural aspects, the EIS will also include a summary of all impacts that could result from the construction and subsequent operation of the transmission lines.

Another important component of the EIS is its presentation of alternative solutions from APG, Netz OÖ and LINZ NETZ, the project applicants. These include all minor route variations considered in the planning process as well as a description of the technical alternatives.

The aforementioned technical documentation will be taken as the basis for reviewing and assessing the potential impact of the project on the material assets specific to the region. The EIS will focus on the material assets of people, animals, soil, water and landscape.

The purpose of the EIS is to explain the reasons for selecting the route submitted for approval.

Transparent planning during project development

The aim of the Upper Austria (Central Region) electric transmission infrastructure project is to upgrade the existing power grid to enable it to meet the challenges of the future. The project is a highly complex endeavour consisting of several different subprojects:

  • Replacement of a 220-kV line from the Kronstorf substation to the Asten connection point (running towards Wegscheid)
  • Replacement of a 220/110-kV line from the Ernsthofen substation to the Asten connection point (running towards Pichling)
  • Replacement of a 220/110-kV connection between the Wegscheid and Hütte Süd substations
  • Replacement of a 110-kV line in the riparian forest area of the Traun River to the substations at the Linz Süd district heating plant and Hütte Süd
  • Reinforcement of an existing cable section in the vicinity of the Pichling substation
  • Installation of a new 110-kV line in the vicinity of the Asten motorway
  • Rerouting and optimisation of a line in the vicinity of the Enns River crossings and installation of a new 110-kV line over the Enns River
  • Conversion to 220 kV of the existing line sections between the Asten connection points and the Wegscheid and Pichling substations
  • Removal of the existing 110-kV line between Hiesendorf/Enns and the St. Pantaleon switching station
  • Removal of additional 110-kV lines
  • Upgrades at the Ernsthofen, Kronstorf, Pichling, Wegscheid and Tillysburg substations and the Linz Süd district heating plant

Once all of the project components have been completed, the region will have a new, high-performance 220-kV supply ring in addition to a high-performance 110-kV distribution grid. Establishing a sustainable and secure supply of electricity will benefit the central region of Upper Austria as a place to live and do business for generations to come.

Planning the line replacements

The process of planning the replacements to existing line sections as envisioned in the overall concept for the Upper Austria (Central Region) electric transmission infrastructure project is the most complicated part of the project, which involves using the existing line routes owned by APG, Netz OÖ and LINZ NETZ for the construction of new lines.

Work on the line routes to be optimised is scheduled to proceed step-by-step along the planned corridor housing the existing transmission lines. In planning the route, the following criteria are of particular importance to us:

  • The planning process should involve communities, property owners and other local stakeholders.
  • All planning interests should align with the needs of people and nature.
  • The existing infrastructure should be utilised for the project wherever possible.

Converting the voltage of existing lines

Two of the line sections were already modernised several years ago. These line systems are already ready for 220-kV operation for the most part. Only a few additional adaptations still need to be made at certain points, as some of the transmission towers located in the section between Asten and the Wegscheid substation require minor structural adjustments (minimally raising the height of the towers).

Upgrading and converting existing substations

In addition to the necessary line replacements and voltage conversions, extensive work is also required at six substations. This involves the following subprojects:

  • Installation of a 380/220-kV transformer at the Kronstorf substation to upgrade the substation to 380 kV (as the second high-performance intake point)
  • Conversion of existing 220-kV components and installation of new 220-kV components at the Ernsthofen and Kronstorf substations as well as the Pichling and Wegscheid substations (which also include 220/110-kV transformers)
  • Conversion of existing 110-kV components and installation of new 110-kV components at the Tillysburg substations and the Linz Süd district heating plant

APG, Netz OÖ and LINZ NETZ are already required to demonstrate that the project meets the statutory requirements for the protection of people and nature upon submitting it for official review. Experts and appraisers representing around 20 areas of specialisation have therefore been called in to perform inspections in the planning area for the purpose of drawing up the project documents. This often necessitates accessing private property on foot or by vehicle, and in some cases carrying out on-site inspections. A “preliminary works approval notice” has therefore been granted by the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism and the Upper Austrian state authorities as the legal basis for conducting the inspections on behalf of the project applicants. Should the inspections cause any damage to land used for agriculture or horticulture purposes, the damage will be compensated by the project applicants as stipulated in the compensation guidelines issued by the Upper Austria Chamber of Agriculture.

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