The Challenge Facing Italy’s Power Grid

The reliability of Italy’s electricity grid is being challenged by the growth of installed renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, along with a parallel reduction in thermal power. Terna S.p.A., the owner and operator of 98% of the Italian high-voltage power transmission grid, was in need of reactive power and a boost in system inertia from its Brindisi substation in southern Italy to help ensure the availability of dependable electricity for residents and businesses in the region.

The Synchronous Condenser Solution for Terna, Italy

As part of our renewable steam power offerings, GE has a broad synchronous condenser portfolio and over the past 100 years has supplied more than 200 synchronous condensers to utilities around the globe, providing critical support to a transforming grid.

GE’s first synchronous condensers for Terna have been running in Sicily since 2015. In addition, we have four more 250 MVAr synchronous condenser units under construction with Terna in the Selargius and Maida plants in Sardinia and Calabria, respectively. Building on that relationship, Terna again turned to us to provide two synchronous condensers and flywheel units for its Brindisi substation. Each synchronous condensing unit will supply Terna with reactive power of up to +250/-125 MVAr and 1,750 MW inertia.

Because the intermittent nature of renewable sources coupled with the many challenges stressing the Italian electrical infrastructure requires a significant effort to help prevent power generation disturbances, the synchronous condenser technology will be installed at strategic locations along Terna’s transmission system. As a result, they can produce or absorb reactive power and keep power flowing consistently to the Italian power grid.

Our scope in the latest project at the Brindisi substation includes the design, civil works, supply, installation and commissioning of two electrical TOPAIR two-pole generators, step-up transformers, generator circuit breakers, and all electrical and mechanical auxiliaries. Each generator will be equipped with a flywheel to respond to Terna’s inertia requirements. Balance of plant scope includes the protection and control as well as the monitoring and diagnostic systems. We will also ensure the maintenance of Terna’s synchronous condensers for the next twenty years.

The Result that Helped Stabilize the Italian Power Grid

GE’s synchronous condenser technology is able to help Terna quickly regulate the energy parameters of Italy’s transmission network, generate or absorb reactive energy, regulate voltage and improve the network’s energy factor, and increase the overall inertia of the power grid with its new flywheel system.

In total, GE’s eight synchronous condenser units with Terna will supply up to 1,820 MVAr of reactive power for Italy’s power grid with a value of 10,500 MW of inertia, helping to stabilize the grid for the more than 20 million people who live in the Sardinia region, Sicily and southern Italy.

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