APG Weinviertel Line Replacement
The pioneers of the electricity infrastructure laid the essential groundwork for today’s power grid in building the 220-kV power line in the Weinviertel in north-eastern Austria. After more than 70 years of operation, however, the Weinviertel line is in need of substantial rehabilitation.
The demands placed on the electricity grid have increased. Today, electricity is not generated exclusively at just a few major power plants. There are many locations where regional renewable energy – wind and solar power – is converted to electrical energy. This turn of events means that powerful, interconnected networks are necessary to enable demand and supply to be matched every second.
The route along which the existing line runs is no longer optimum to meet the demands of the future. Therefore, a new route needs to be designed that takes account of the changing geographical distribution of the power supply. APG’s new Weinviertel line will run from Seyring to the Zaya substation as a 380-kV line. At the Zaya substation, it will connect to the Lower Austrian 110-kV grid.
These days, projects of this scope must be subjected to a comprehensive review of their impact on people and nature. Conflicts with environmental or conservation interests may prohibit installing new power lines where the current lines run, or other considerations may favour a new route.
EIA documents available for inspection and in the local communities; period of time for public statements
Project documents available for inspection at the EIA authority and in the local communities; period of time for public statements
APG’s new Weinviertel line to replace the existing 220-kV line must be subjected to an official approval procedure pursuant to the 2000 Environmental Impact Assessment Act (UVP-G 2000). The Lower Austria state government is responsible for the approval process, since the planned line will be located exclusively in Lower Austrian territory.
Upon submitting the project for official review, APG must show that the line meets the statutory requirements for the protection of people and nature. Experts in 24 fields therefore carried out inspections on the site of the planned project for the purpose of drawing up the detailed project planning documents.
This necessitated accessing private property along the planned line in some cases. The Lower Austrian state authorities granted APG a “preliminary works approval notice” in April 2015 as the legal basis for conducting the inspections.
Taking the initially planned corridor as a basis, the corridor was refined step-by-step over the following 14 months until the current route of APG’s Weinviertel line was finalised. In planning the route, the following criteria were of particular importance to APG and its employees:
- the planning process should involve communities, property owners and neighbouring parties
- all environmental or conservation interests relating to people and nature must be considered
- connections with the existing infrastructure (Lower Austrian grid’s 110-kV line, wind farms, etc.)
In addition, the many in-person discussions that APG project employees held with representatives of the communities along the route, the property owners affected and neighbouring parties were a crucial part of the overall planning process. This was the only way to be made aware of potential improvements to the proposed route plan and discuss them with the parties involved at a local level. Many of the suggestions from the community and the property owners were incorporated into the plans and are now reflected in the probable route of APG’s Weinviertel line replacement.
Of particular significance is involving the public in the route development process, providing comprehensive information on the individual project steps, ensuring open communication and working together constructively with members of the public and their political representatives.
Upon the start of the project in the spring of 2015, all potential property owners in the planning area and all owners of property on which the existing 220-kV line is located were personally informed in writing about the planned “APG Weinviertel line replacement” project.
The project team began initiating personal contact with the property owners at the same time the info letter was sent. To ensure that the process was as simple as possible with direct contact and support during the entire duration of the project, the project area was divided into five sections, with each section being assigned to an APG employee as the direct contact person for the property owners. The contact information of the APG contact person responsible for them was supplied to all property owners in the initial info letter.
One of the main requests received during the many discussions with property owners, neighbouring parties and community representatives during the planning phase related to optimisation of the mast locations as well as the route. The discussions were successful in identifying potential improvements that could be taken into consideration in the route now defined.
At the end of the planning phase, all communities affected by APG’s Weinviertel line replacement were invited to a consultation day at which information was provided to all interested parties. Local residents were invited to attend the consultation day in their community through flyers circulated by bulk mail or ads in community newspapers, while property owners were sent individual letters.
Land is generally appropriated either when a transmission tower is erected on it or if it is transversed by a transmission line, in which case an easement must be granted. The compensation paid for appropriated land areas and forested areas is regulated uniformly for all property owners in an APG guideline. Guaranteeing a uniform process and equal treatment of all property owners is of the utmost priority for APG.
The guideline governs the calculation of the compensation stipulated in the private-law easement agreement to be entered into with all property owners. The APG guideline ensures a uniform, appropriate and cooperative procedure in appropriating property for the APG Weinviertel line replacement, and is broken down into three parts:
- agricultural land
- forested land
If the land to be appropriated is agricultural land that is used for farming, the compensation to be paid is calculated on the basis of the guideline. Differing market values in the project region are taken into account in the calculation.
If the land appropriated 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 guideline. The assessment is made in accordance with recognised methods for appraising the value of forested areas.
APG has also agreed to compensate the 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 Lower Austria Chamber of Agriculture.