It is not every day that heavy trucks with cable drums weighing tons roll through the centre of Braunschweig. 21 heavy goods vehicles are on the road with a crane and flashing lights on the roof. The cargo: steel drums the size of a ship’s propeller, more than three metres high, containing 110 kV high-voltage cables as thick as some construction workers’ forearms. Over the next few months, the cables will be laid underground to ensure a reliable power supply for the city of nearly 250,000 people.
“Electromobility is also increasing the demands on the power grid in Braunschweig. That is why we want to renew the old high-voltage cables from the 1980s and make our network more stable,” says Volker Schwanitz, project manager at BS|NETZ.
For this purpose, construction workers have dug a cable route between the city’s transformer stations. The first of four sections is 670 metres long. On a hot day in July, three men from Wassermann Kabeltechnik GmbH, a company specialising in high-voltage technology, whirl around the construction site. Next to them is the noise of car traffic, cyclists rush by. The men are pulling the high-voltage cable through the trench with a hauling rope. In the end, three such thick cables will lie side by side for the so-called three-phase system.
LAPP as the general contractor
For LAPP, the site was something special even before the first spade had been turned. The market leader from Stuttgart is not only supplying the cables in Braunschweig, but for the first time is also coordinating the entire delivery and cable laying. A role change from connection specialist to project coordinator that the company has been preparing for months.
“This is the first project in the energy supply sector where we are acting as a full-service provider,” says Johannes Gleich, who is responsible for sales to all municipal utilities and network operators in Germany at LAPP. Together with Wassermann Kabeltechnik GmbH, which is mainly responsible for the construction work as a subcontractor, the manufacturer from Baden-Württemberg is responsible for all stages of the project: The delivery of the cables, the laying, the installation, the conversion in the substation and at the transformer stations, and finally the handover protocols to the customers. “The organisational effort is immense,” says Gleich. The sheer size of the cable drums, for example, means that just-in-time delivery is necessary, as the drums cannot simply be left at the side of the road. The coordination between the customer, the installation company and other suppliers is time-consuming, “but it’s great when the individual steps mesh together”. Wassermann Kabeltechnik GmbH also has expectations of the partnership: “Everyone involved has to work closely together – from project management in the construction management department to the back office and, of course, on site,” says Michael Richter, who as plant manager at Wassermann in Burgdorf is also responsible for the installation team. If the cooperation does not work, not only is the completion of the construction site delayed, and thus the smooth operation of the infrastructure, but the network operator may also incur high costs. Richter is satisfied because LAPP was a reliable project manager and an accessible contact person with whom the project could be successfully completed for BS|NETZ.
For an improved infrastructure
Gleich recognised the huge market potential and the associated need for services in the infrastructure sector. LAPP therefore expanded its portfolio to include solutions for the laying and installation of high-voltage cables in the 110 kV range by working with subcontractors such as Wassermann Kabeltechnik GmbH. About a year ago, Gleich contacted a number of municipal utilities and network operators in Germany, including BS|NETZ. The project team realised that cities and municipalities not only wanted to renew their network cables, but also wanted support in project management.
“It is not every day that a city like Braunschweig lays new 110 kV cables,” says Janine Putsche from BS|ENERGY’s purchasing department. BS|NETZ and BS|ENERGY work closely together on purchasing issues. “We were looking for a contractor for BS|NETZ who could provide everything from a single source and act as a single point of contact. This was the case with LAPP,” she says.
Johannes Gleich understands that there is always a risk when companies enter new territory. But with LAPP’s range of services as well as depth of services, the risk is manageable. “We have decades of experience in the industry, we know the processes and we know what is important for the orders. In addition, with Wassermann we have one of the most experienced companies for laying work anywhere,” he says. The family-owned company LAPP, which operates internationally and in many industries, has for some time been acting not only as a cable supplier but also as a solution provider in various projects. “We are in talks with several interested parties, the demand is great,” says Gleich.
In Braunschweig, the cable routes have already been properly sealed again since October 2021. In view of the ever-increasing demand for electricity due to e-mobility, this will bring considerable advantages in the future.