Success Story

MICROSENS xWDM technology optimizes data transmission at lofty heights: AMPRION controls the electricity grid with its own optical fibers

IT networks must work reliably – in every application and every industry. Very few networks can support the availability requirements of cross-country and international deployments like Amprion GmbH. Amprion controls and monitors Germany's largest high-voltage power grid with its own previously installed fiber optic connections. The liberalization of the European electricity market meant the existing IT infrastructure had reached its limits. Amprion’s data network is located at a Data needed Feet up on high-voltage masts. High-performance MICROSENS wavelength-division multiplexing allowed the capacities of Amprion’s IT network to be safely and dependably expanded across Germany and to interconnect with neighboring European countries.

The sure way to succeed: Cutting-edge control technology

Spanning 6,835 miles (11,000 kilometers) of lines, 160 transformer and switching stations the Amprion GmbH network is the largest in Germany. The extra-high voltage system (380,000 and 220,000 volts) connects power plants with load centers and facilitates electricity trading across Europe. The company is not only responsible for reliable transmission of electricity throughout Germany it is entrusted to safeguard the balance between electricity supply and demand in Europe. As the hub of the German and European transmission grid using interconnectors to join electricity grids in Europe ensuring that electricity supply meets demand. Customers from industry, distribution system operators, electricity traders and generators can all feed and draw electricity at around 395 points in a non-discriminatory manner. Constant and reliable provision of electricity takes very accurate planning. Amprion operates two control centers in the Cologne area and another in Ludwigsburg. These three control centers control all 160 stations in the high-voltage power grid using the latest technology. The three control centers are coupled via Amprion's own fiber-optic network consisting of optical ground wires high up on the high voltage masts. The optical fibers are encased in a stable jacket of steel and aluminum to ensure reliability in even extreme weather conditions.

Complexity needs bandwidth: New concept sought

The demands placed on data network capacity rose continuously with the liberalization of the European electricity market. This high utilization increased the risk of network failure – a solution was imperative. Establishing completely new physical connections would have been extremely costly and time-consuming. Amprion’s IT Team decided for another technology: wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM). Among other benefits the parallel transmission of several light frequencies on an existing fiber pair would save the cost of installing of new cables.

In the quest for a suitable solution, the IT Team led by Burkhard Laumann developed an ambitious list of requirements:

  • Future-proof solution: Flexibility in further expansion#
  • Highly robust devices with high levels of failure safety
  • Systems should offer backup options
  • Fast reaction times from the manufacturer in response questions
  • Excellent understanding of the application on the manufacturer's part
  • Immediate ability to supply all functionalities resulting from short project times
  • Good value for money

With its Optical Transport Platform concept, MICROSENS managed to best fulfill these criteria and won the tender that Amprion implemented. Within a few months, the manufacturer installed MSP 1000 and MSP 3000 type modular network solutions in the transformer stations. Burkhard Laumann, Amprion’s Head of Telecommunication Technology explained "WDM planning is not a trivial matter, it demands a profound understanding of the subject matter. The competent employees from MICROSENS made an essential contribution such that we were able to switch to WDM so quickly." Amprion's specification of relying solely on optical amplifiers, even over large distances, proved to be a challenge, even here the engineers at MICROSENS found an optimal solution and the deployment at Amprior is proof.

Capacities to match demand: Wavelength-division multiplexing forms an ideal basis

Overall, the existing data network capacities could be increased many times over. The network has worked reliably and without malfunctions since the installation of the Optical Transport Platform in 2011. Physically, the three control centers are configured in a triangle whose longest side measures around 1,000 kilometers. The total length of the xWDM transmission line amounts to approximately 1,800 km. A ring structure was selected for the network, which was designed to be fully redundant. Failures in several sections can therefore be bridged.


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Transmitting information via fiber optic connections offers numerous benefits. MICROSENS GmbH & Co. KG recognised this very early on. As one of the pioneers, the company has developed and produced high-performance communications and transmission systems in Germany since 1993. Individually matched to the demands of diverse usage areas and embedded in comprehensive concepts for individual sectors. But, above all, close to the customer. Technical challenges from customer projects are incorporated directly into product development. This way, IP-based automation solutions are created for modern buildings, cost-efficient network concepts for the office and workspace, robust and fail-safe solutions for industrial environments, optical transport systems future-oriented wide area networks and efficient coupling of sites and computer centres.