Czech grid acts to guard against German wind power surges

PRAGUE, April 17 Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:49pm BST

PRAGUE, April 17 (Reuters) - Czech grid operator CEPS has backed a plan to build transformers to guard against excess flows of German wind-produced electricity which threaten neighbouring transmission systems, a CEPS official said on Wednesday.

The move could complicate efforts to find a regional solution to the problem of surges of renewable electricity from Germany.

CEPS Supervisory Board Chairman Tomas Huener told Reuters that the board approved a plan to install phase-shifters, or transformers, which will protect the Czech grid and could be built by 2016.

"The supervisory board approved the investment plan and a recommendation to the shareholder meeting," he said.

Large electricity flows produced by wind farms in Germany's sparsely populated north can overload transmission lines, or cause blackouts or losses when operators are forced by such surges to shut down power plants.

These so-called loop flows are most acute in the autumn and early winter when German wind power generation peaks.

Installing phase shifters will only deflect the German flows to neighbouring grids in countries such as Poland, which is also considering installing them. Unilateral actions pose a challenge to efforts to build a unified European electricity grid.

Huener said the Czechs had offered to not build the phase shifters if Germany pledged to pay penalties when large amounts of its surplus power spills over, but the Germans declined.

"The option of reaching an agreement on commercial terms has not been successful," he told Reuters.

He said Germany could solve the problem by allowing its grid operators to turn off renewable sources at times of excess production, which is not currently possible under German law.

The German cabinet agreed a plan late last year which could also help, aiming to speed up the construction of 2,800 km of power lines to improve the grid between the northern coast, where many of the wind turbines are, and the country's industrialised south. (Editing by Michael Kahn and Jason Neely)