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Overhead power lines upgrade: SPIE responsible for approval management on behalf of Pfalzwerke Netz AG

Published on 20 March 2023

Berlin, 20 mars 2023 – SPIE, the independent European leader in multi-technical services in the areas of energy and communications, has assumed responsibility for all approval management activities associated with the large-scale upgrade of 20 kV overhead power lines to enhance their failure safety, on behalf of Pfalzwerke Netz AG. As part of a master agreement, CeGIT – a business unit of SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa, the German subsidiary of SPIE – is providing a comprehensive range of services for the main energy supplier in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, including the planning of flood retention areas and environmental supervision of the construction projects. This multi-year contract began in April 2022 and has been gradually expanded. 

Approval management: ensuring transparency throughout the process

The numerous line modernisation projects across Germany are key pillars of the energy transition. These measures are intended to make existing networks more resilient to failure – and Pfalzwerke Netz AG‘s projects to upgrade the overhead power lines in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland are no exception. A ring connection will be implemented to improve network fail safety, and the old infrastructure will be dismantled to make way for brand-new structures that comply with the latest (environmental) requirements. 

However, any network upgrade cannot be carried out without prior approval management, and it is precisely this task that CeGIT – a unit within the CityNetworks & Grids operational division of SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa – has been commissioned by Pfalzwerke Netz AG to perform. It includes everything from negotiating easement with the private landowners to filing the line rights in the land register. The Hockenheim-based experts from SPIE are also in charge of planning road and waterway crossings as well as pylons in the natural habitats for flora and fauna and assessing the condition of the line. 

“In projects of this size, it is essential that every aspect of power lines regulation – including environmental protection aspects – are clarified before our network expansion specialists begin work. In this case, flooding and environmental protection is a particular challenge. We must be able to rely on the plans completely – and thanks to SPIE, our long-term partner, this has never been a problem,” says Thomas Müller, project manager for Pfalzwerke Netz AG. 

“To ensure that this cross-state line upgrade project progresses as efficiently as possible, our team is supporting the customer in all aspects of approval management. From the relevant authorities to the adjoining landowners, it is crucial to reach out to and involve all stakeholders early on, professionally and on equal terms,” says Christoph Schobess, project manager at CeGIT. 

Factoring in protected water and nature conservation areas

The 20 kV line’s passage through protected areas such as the Bliesgau biosphere reserve and alongside waterways such as the Schwarzbach and Blies, makes these projects particularly challenging. In order to satisfy official requirements of two federal states, planners must take into account waterway crossings, flood retention zones and several other nature conservation aspects, while deciding on ideal location for the overhead line pylons. 
“Because of the proximity to waterways, we also must consider the water-dwelling bird species, which are protected by both the Federal Act for the Protection of Nature and the European Union. It is thus important to take into account a such level of regulation” says Dr Stefanie Flethe, a graduate biologist at CeGIT, talking about the complex circumstances on the ground.
The soil conditions must also have be considered in the structural analysis of the 20 kV pylon foundations to ensure that the power supply is not disrupted even during flooding.

Involvement of multiple business units

CeGIT’s extensive on-the-ground expertise, as well as collaborative effort with other SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa units such as the structural analysis team in the High Voltage operational division and the Alsfeld engineering geology team in the CityNetworks & Grids operational division ensure that these projects implemented on behalf of Pfalzwerke Netz AG progress without interruption. The construction work performed by Pfalzwerke Netz AG in the first project phase was completed successfully in November. The overall project is scheduled to end with the completion of the third project phase in summer 2023.