news / 2013-10-28

Electricity grid planning: Development of a grid expansion planning tool

The electricity grid is being adapted to meet the challenges arising from the feed-in of renewable energy. Source: Gina Sanders, Fotolia

In the course of the energy turnaround, between 20 and 40 billion euros will be invested in grid expansion projects in the coming years. In this context, optimum route planning represents one of the main challenges. Up until now, planning processes were determined by analytical cost models. The “Power grid planning” research project is to develop an objective assessment tool for planners that takes all of the relevant complex criteria into consideration when new power route requirements are identified in the grid expansion context. Scientists have now integrated topological, spatial planning, technological, economic, ecological and socio-economic requirements into a weighting function that can be automatically assessed with the aid of computers. This solution will allow planners to objectively evaluate various possible scenarios and adjust the relevance of the criteria to different viewpoints.


The plausible presentation of various constellations and their evaluation will make it easier for planners to recognise connections and develop planning alternatives. More transparency is required with respect to greater public participation in decisions regarding concrete route layouts. Hence, visualisations of potential new routes in their future surroundings are an important basis for constructive communication with the public.


Scientists have analysed planning processes and approval procedures and held talks with various stakeholders. This process was supported by the research-oriented consultant Spiekermann & Wegener Stadt- und Regionalforschung.

Three-dimensional visualisation of a fictitious load and generation scenario based on the Federal Republic’s transmission grid. Differences between generation and load are colour-coded and presented in height values. Source: TU Dortmund, Informatik VII

The data and project results are made available as web services via an intuitive and barrier-free user interface with a link to geoinformation systems (GIS). The extendable concept allows users to integrate further criteria via respective interfaces that will be included in the evaluation as respective parameters. Extensive data from various sources, including the ‘Digitale Basis-Landschaftsmodell’ (Basis DLM) developed by the Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy, have been homogenised and integrated into a GIS database for the purpose of visualisation and as a basis for the weighting function. A further challenge consists of the appropriate integration of the planning requirements and its associated interactions into the envisaged approval procedures.


To achieve all of the above aims, scientists and practitioners in the disciplines of IT, mathematics and spatial planning at the Technical University of Dortmund have joined forces with the transmission grid operator Amprion to work on the “Power grid planning” project which is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology for a period of three years.