From the Tube Map to a new Swiss grid map

Author: Kaspar Haffner

6,700 kilometres of lines, 12,000 pylons and 141 substations – the Swiss extra-high-voltage grid is a complex web. This becomes particularly apparent when it is to be represented graphically, which is why Swissgrid is on a constant search for new and simplified representation options. This is important so that the operators in the grid control room can identify the state of the grid as quickly and intuitively as possible. They also need to simulate and demonstrate a range of situations and incidents in the grid. Swissgrid uses these simulations to ensure that it can respond quickly and correctly to overloads or outages.

Every second counts in an emergency, such as if a line fails or the grid stability is at risk: the operators must be able to recognise what is happening in the grid as quickly as possible. They need to analyse the problems and develop solutions, all of which is made easier by the clearest possible representation of the grid.

For a pilot project which is part of the R&D project «Data Visualisation », Swissgrid employees created a schematised grid map.

Final simplified representation of the extra-high-voltage grid

Breaking the rules brings about progress

Just over a month after Peter Schult presented his idea to the R&D team, he and Markus Aebi were able to tackle a simplified representation of the Swiss extra-high-voltage grid for the first time. Today they both look back on their work with satisfaction. Peter currently works as a Senior Application Specialist and has completed further training in visualisation technologies. As a former operator in Grid Operations, he is very familiar with the conditions in the extra-high-voltage grid. Markus, a Digital Media Manager and qualified machine draughtsman, has an excellent grasp of the necessary skills and design software.

Together, they clearly visualised the entire grid to enable a better and more intuitive orientation for the specialists in the grid control room. This required them to abandon some of the rules. For instance, Peter and Markus did not replicate the topography of Switzerland. In the new representation, the lines only run horizontally, vertically or at a 45° angle. Line intersections were eliminated wherever possible, densely packed areas expanded and better use was made of areas with fewer lines. In addition, they established line symmetries and made of the course of line rings clearer. In doing so, Peter and Markus were always firmly focussed on the goal of making sure that the topography remained clearly recognisable.

Another rule that they broke was the colour of the 380 kV lines. These lines had previously always been red. Red is a signal colour and is no longer used when the grid is in its normal state in the new representation. This naturally makes it possible to expand the range of signal colours, with yellow and orange for example. Irregularities in the grid can now be divided into clear priority levels that can be easily identified by operators in the grid control room.

Modelled on the Tube Map

Peter and Markus were inspired by the network map of the London Underground. It was designed by Harry Beck, a technical draughtsman by trade, in the 1930s in his spare time. His idea: to forego topographical accuracy in order to enable a clear representation in the «tube map». This was used as the basis for creating the simplified schematic representation of the transmission grid. It allows the eye to find its way more quickly and identify problem zones in the grid much more easily.

Peter and Markus continued to simplify the original representation over countless steps. It became apparent that the topography of Switzerland cannot be ignored completely in order to quickly understand the grid situation, as the employees in the grid control room have spent years using national borders, towns and cities, lakes and important substations as guides for orientation. This has established itself in practice and flowed into the considerations in the new representation.

The most important steps in simplifying the representation

This new representation creates a foundation to which additional elements can be added as required. For example, the supply regions of the distribution system operators can be plotted more easily, natural hazards can be integrated if necessary, and electricity flows, grid disconnections, line loads and many other data can be visualised.

An R&D pilot project will now be used to integrate and interactively visualise operating data in the map, such as an animation of the power flows along the lines. Just one more way in which modern data visualisations can support efficient operational decisions.


Kaspar Haffner

Communication Manager

Do you like this Blog post?

Share this post:

More Blog posts

  • | Blog

    A facelift for a pillar of the community

    Read blog post
  • | Blog

    Swissgrid replaces a relic from the post-war period

    Read blog post
  • | Blog

    Energy infrastructure: where and how much?

    Read blog post



Please select a title.

Please enter your first name.

Please enter your last name.

Please enter a valid e-mail address.

Please enter your message.

Please click the checkbox.