Background information: SuedOstLink

A necessity: direct current enables target-oriented transmission

The SuedOstLink is a future direct current connection with a voltage of approx. 500 kV that will transport large electricity volumes over a distance of more than 450 kilometres with little to no loss. It will connect the important electricity bus bars in northern, central and southern Germany. Direct current connections are more suited to the accurate transport of large power volumes to where they are needed than the current meshed alternating current grid. For the length of the planned connection, the only alternative to achieve a targeted load flow is the construction of multiple three-phase transmission lines in parallel, which would lead to higher costs and more line routes. The SuedOstLink will aid in covering the increased need for power in the south of Germany when the last nuclear power stations are taken off the grid.

The legal basis for the construction of the overhead line is the federal requirement plan of May 2013, in which the SuedOstLink was described as an energy management necessity (project no. 5). This decision is a signal from the political world and the energy industry and an investment in a new component in the German transmission system.
The high voltage line and the implementation framework are therefore regulated by law.

The Federal Requirement Plan Act is based on a multi-stage process of the needs assessment, which is regulated in the Energy Industry Act (EnWG §§11-12) and takes place yearly since 2012. The input for this process are the planning data from the federated states, the energy industry, the system operators and the Federal Government. From these data, the four transmission system operators create a grid development plan, which is repeatedly subject to public consultation, approved by the Federal Network Agency and finally confirmed by the Federal Parliament. More information on the requirement planning and how to participate can be obtained by searching for "authorisation procedure" or "approval procedure" on the related website, NETZENTWICKLUNGSPLAN STROM (power grid development plan), or from the Federal Network Agency.

In 2012, the Federal Network Agency had the following to say about the SuedOstLink: "Based on the expected massive growth in onshore wind capacity as well as a further increase in photovoltaic installations in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, there is an additional excess capacity in these states of about 12 GW." High voltage direct current transmission (HVDCT) between Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria is therefore an absolute necessity.
Without this new route, extra congestion can be expected in all three affected states. As a result, not all energy generated from wind and solar installations will be injected into the grid, devaluing the economic worth of these installations.

Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur - BNetzA): SuedOstLink indispensable

In 2012, the Federal Network Agency had the following to say about the SuedOstLink: "Based on the expected massive growth in onshore wind capacity as well as a further increase in photovoltaic installations in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, there is an additional excess capacity in these states of about 12 GW." High voltage direct current transmission (HVDCT) between Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria is therefore an absolute necessity.
Without this new route, extra congestion can be expected in all three affected states. As a result, not all energy generated from wind and solar installations will be injected into the grid, devaluing the economic worth of these installations.

Line route: corridor wanted in scope of federal sector planning

For the South-East DC Passage from Saxony-Anhalt to Bavaria, a high voltage direct current transmission line, a new, 45 kilometre-long line needs to be constructed. So far, however, only the grid connection points of this passage - its start and ending points - have been decided on. In Saxony-Anhalt, this is Bad Lauchstädt south-west of Halle, in Bavaria this is Meitingen in the Augsburg area. Appropriate line routes between both grid connection points are currently being examined by means of analyses to determine a corridor.

Grid connection points: starting point Bad Lauchstädt, end point Meitingen

Bad Lauchstädt was chosen as the starting point as it is centrally located on the main load flow axis from north-east to south-west. Furthermore, it is integrated in the power grid in such a way, that it has a positive effect on the surrounding lines of the grid region - even insofar as to reduce the power flows to Poland and the Czech Republic. Meitingen was chosen as the end point of the South-East DC Passage.

At these two grid connection points, converter plants will be constructed. These technical installations convert alternating to direct current and vice versa to establish the integration in the existing transmission system. The technical and spatial planning for these converter plants (covering an area of up to 15 ha) is currently ongoing, in parallel with the search for a line route. The qualified range is a radius of about 10 kilometres around the current grid connection point.

Wide corridor search procedure: risk of conflict analysis and technical feasibility

The corridor for the line route is decided in the scope of the federal sector planning. At present, the project is still in the corridor search phase. This means that 50Hertz is studying the established survey area between the starting and end point of the direct current passage for appropriate route corridors, which are made more precise in the sector planning procedure.

The objective is to find a route corridor which is technically and economically as well as environmentally and socially viable. To this end, the entire area is subject to a so-called risk of conflict analysis, which charts the area for criteria that are unfavourable for a route or could make the line's construction much more difficult: examples are residential areas, sensitive facilities such as hospitals or schools, as well as nature, bird or water conservation areas or military bases.
Simultaneously, a bundling analysis is being carried out to search for existing routes which the new line might follow: existing high voltage lines, cross-regional railways or national highways. By bundling grid infrastructures, undeveloped areas can be spared and the effects on nature and landscape can be minimised.

When the spatial planning criteria have been checked, the plans will undergo a technical feasibility study to assess whether the resulting corridors are also technically suitable for the realisation of the direct current passage. The federal sector planning finally lays down the future, binding route corridor. When all aspects of the protection of man and nature have been considered, no technical hindrances may remain either.

Result: preferred corridor and alternatives

With the aid of these analyses, various potential route corridors are determined. At a public project conference, a preferred corridor and possible alternatives are presented. This corridor - but also the alternative options - are then suggested by the Federal Network Agency in the scope of a public participation procedure, and the required study scope to determine the effects on man and nature is established. Subsequently, the results are made open to public inspection. The Federal Network Agency then assesses all positions. In the end, the Federal Network Agency lays down the binding route corridor.

Planning and approval process: request and preparation of the federal sector planning

Now that the South-East DC Passage has been included in the 2013 federal requirement plan, 50Hertz and Amprion are preparing the request for the federal sector planning. To this end, possible route corridors are being determined inside a survey area established by the Federal Network Agency.

The legal basis for the approval procedure and the public participation is the Grid Expansion Acceleration Act (Netzausbaubeschleunigungsgesetz or NABEG). The competent authority for this procedure is the Federal Network Agency in Bonn.

If all goes as planned, the possible route corridors will be presented at a public project conference in the second half of 2014. In the scope of this conference, these corridors are extensively discussed with representatives of public interests (e.g. state authorities, municipal administrations, environmental associations) and interested citizens. Further research can be initiated to ensure that the planning documents are clear and substantiated in every detail.

When all planning documents have been drawn up, they are made available for public consultation by the Federal Network Agency. That way, citizens and representatives of public interests alike can consult the plans, assess them and comment on them.

In addition to the legally obliged regulations of the formal participation procedure, 50Hertz implements extra measures to extensively inform local residents at the earliest possible stage. These informal public debate measures are not part of the official procedure.

The results of the public participation procedure are assessed by the Federal Network Agency and presented in the scope of a public hearing, after which the FNA decides on the request for federal sector planning. One year after the public project conference, a binding route corridor of 500 to 1000 metres in width should be determined.

The route corridor determined in the federal sector planning then leads to the next step of the procedure: the plan approval procedure. The plan approval procedure is carried out by the Federal Network Agency as well. Project developers 50Hertz and Amprion have to plan the exact line route within this route corridor.

The commissioning of the South-East DC Passage is planned for 2022.