In the western part of the Balkans in Europe, there is a 285 kilometer-long river, the Drin River, which flows westwards through northern Albania and directly into the Adriatic Sea, with a catchment area of 14,173 square kilometers. Thanks to a steep riverbed slope and abundant water resources, Albania has built three cascade hydroelectric power stations on the Drin River, namely, Fierza, Koman, and Vau i Dejës. The total installed capacity of the three power stations approaches 1,400 MW, accounting for 70.6 percent of Albania’s total capacity of nationwide hydroelectric power stations. They form the largest hydroelectric power station group in the entire Balkan region regarding the installed capacity and reservoir capacity.

Water and Bits Together Drive Watts

Albania is one of the European countries that have the most abundant water resources. According to the data released by the Energy Regulatory Authority (ERE), in 2016, Albania generated 7.136 billion kWh of electricity and consumed 7.094 billion kWh, but power grid losses reached 1.986 billion kWh, accounting for 28 percent of the total generated capacity. The Albanian electric power system mainly consists of four parts: Power supervision, power generation, power transmission and transformation, and power distribution and sales. ERE, Albanian Power Corporation (KESH), Transmission System Operator (OST), and Electric Power Distribution Operator (OSHEE), respectively, are responsible for these four parts.

The OST is responsible for the construction, operations, and maintenance of the national transmission network. It is also responsible for promoting and coordinating interconnection with the power grids in neighboring countries. Responsibilities include:

  • Transmitting teleprotection and management information

  • Interconnecting all branch offices to efficiently communicate network status

  • Ensuring high reliability of the communication and management system

  • Providing large bandwidth for telecom and enterprise markets in Albania

Power production in Albania can meet the basic needs of the country’s industrial and agricultural production. However, because they depend entirely on hydroelectric power, climate can greatly affect power generation. During droughts, the country is more likely to suffer from power shortages and frequent power outages. Albania wants to ensure national energy security; achieve long-term, secure, and reliable supplies of electricity; and improve the country’s influence in the regional energy market. As a result, the Albanian government is attempting to develop the electric power industry in four ways:

  • Increase the exploitation and utilization of hydraulic energy resources

  • Strengthen interconnections with power grids in neighboring countries and regions. Currently, Albania has established multiple cross-border power transmission channels with Greece, Montenegro, and Kosovo.

  • Diversify power generation methods

  • Improve the efficiency of energy use

These four development directions have brought enormous challenges to the transmission system, not only in Albania, but also the entire Balkan region.

The original network has low capacity (only 20 Mbit/s) and urgently needs to expand. In addition, new services such as power automation, video surveillance, automatic O&M, and bandwidth leasing require high bandwidth. The operations company’s utilization rate of SDH — a standard technology for transmitting data on optical media — also is low. As a result, it cannot provide external leasing services for other enterprises. In addition, it is not ready to deal with Big Data, data center interconnection, or cloudification.

Network Capacity Expansion: A Leap from 20 Mbit/s to 10 Gbit/s

The Huawei Universal Transport Solution uses innovative ‘zone-specific, multi-level, and layered’ concepts, and takes into consideration the power grid’s structure, voltage levels, and regional interconnections. The solution helps build a converged power communication network for power transmission and transformation that best suits power grids. A single network can carry both production dispatching and office management services and flexibly expand capacity in anticipation of future service changes.

The intelligent optical transport platform used in the Huawei Universal Transport Solution integrates Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexers (ROADMs), terabit electrical cross-connections, full-granularity grooming ranging from 100 Mbit/s to 100 Gbit/s, optical-electrical synergy, and 10G/40G/100G. It also provides rich management and protection functions based on large-capacity Optical Transport Network (OTN) grooming and long-haul Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (WDM). Empowered by these features, the platform provides end-to-end OTN/WDM backbone transport solutions so that customers can implement multiple-service, large-capacity, and fully transparent transmission. These feature highlights convinced OST to use Huawei’s solution to help resolve issues in Albania’s current transmission network, and to lay a foundation for future development.

Huawei’s intelligent optical transport platform uses innovative technologies to provide the following features and benefits:

  • 10 Gbit/s network capacity and support for evolution to 40G/100G. Smart 40G technology provides sufficient bandwidth for future service development over the next five to ten years.

  • Large-capacity, rapid grooming, with zero waste of bandwidth resources. Any services from 100 Mbit/s to 100 Gbit/s can be encapsulated and mapped in a unified manner, meeting the customer’s requirement for transmitting a variety of services over a single network.

  • A highly reliable network with zero service interruption. In addition to traditional 1+1 protection, the platform supports Automatically Switched Optical Network (ASON) features at both the electrical and optical layers, offering up to 99.9999 percent reliability.

  • Unified network management system and transport platform. A unified O&M team can be established, reducing customer CAPEX and OPEX.

  • A series of products designed with superb spare parts that will last for 15 years.

Full Upgrade of the Power Transmission Network in Albania

  • OST transmission network was nearly 2,500 km. Before 2017, the link capacity on the network was low, with each link’s capacity being less than 20 Mbit/s. Huawei Dense WDM (DWDM) equipment with built-in PCM helps OST greatly improve transmission network capacity by up to 10 Gbit/s per link, meeting the bandwidth requirements of new services such as power automation and video surveillance.

  • The DWDM network has powerful service grooming capabilities, allowing OST to use all types of services on the same network. Low-speed interfaces (such as STM-1, STM-4, FXSO, FE, and GE) from traditional networks and new high-speed interfaces (FE, GE, STM-16, and 10 GE) are all supported for integrating data information, allowing the interconnection with different branches and video surveillance systems.

  • The new DWDM network will help OST improve business value by providing leased line services to other carriers and enterprise markets.

  • Huawei provides robust networking and a powerful management system to ensure high performance and high availability, enabling OST to monitor the network from any place that can access management software through a VPN.

  • A solid foundation is also laid for OST to develop Big Data services, data center interconnection, and cloudification, in order to construct a Smart Grid throughout Albania.

  • Smooth evolution: After the initial phase of construction, the network supports a 40 wavelength x 10G capacity, which can be smoothly upgraded to 40 wavelength x 40G or even to 80 wavelength x 100G, delivering a bandwidth of 8 Tbit/s that completely meets the requirements for future Smart Grid development in Albania.

Idajet Projko, OST Telecommunication Network Manager, said, “First of all, I want to thank you, Huawei, for your commitment for the realization of this successful project. Huawei support before and during the project was determinant to finalize it in the best way. OST is National Power Transmission System Operator of the Albanian Electricity Network and the implementation of the DWDM project was very important for our network. For us it's important to have a modern network with the best technologies that provides very good performance and in the same time a secure and reliable network. Thank you again to Huawei and we hope to continue our collaboration for future successful projects.”

With the gradual development of IP services (such as integrated information platform, telepresence conference, and video surveillance) and IP transformation of traditional key services (such as dispatching telephone and SCADA), IP transformation of electric power services has become an inevitable trend. We believe that in this evolution, Albania will have more in-depth cooperation with Huawei and together light up the road of electric power industry transformation in the Balkans.

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