Innovation, sustainability, modularity: a new design to revolutionize primary substations


There cannot be an energy transition without a distribution network that is even more efficient, sustainable and in harmony with the territory, and design plays a key role in this process. For this reason, Enel Grids launched an Open Innovability challenge, dedicated to the design of primary substations, which are responsible for transforming the electricity received from Italy’s National Transmission Grid from high to medium voltage for widespread distribution. 

The “New Energies” project was the winner of the competition because of its ability to combine the following: innovative design, integration with the urban landscape, safety and modularity.

The project introduces numerous solutions that are designed with efficiency and sustainability in mind, which will revolutionize the distribution network’s primary substations starting in 2025.

It is a multifunctional and versatile system designed to make the most of all natural elements – sun, light, wind and rain water – and to combine the energy efficiency of substations with an optimal balance between investment on the one hand and the economic, environmental and social benefits on the other.

In fact, the adoption of solar panels on the roof will transform each primary substation into a small renewable energy plant, while the installation of a porous floor will allow rain water to penetrate, preventing the formation of heat islands from forming. Furthermore, this new design has a wave fence with a modular grid design that lets in sunlight and wind. In addition, it even boasts an autonomous plant growing system, following the Miyawaki method, which utilizes taller trees to grow smaller native species underneath, allowing primary substations to become tools aimed at ensuring the growth and conservation of the plants that surround them. The careful selection of materials and advanced technologies will also allow for the creation of added value throughout the entire lifecycle of each primary substation, reducing costs and the environmental impact, in line with circular economy principles.

With its versatility of use and ability to spark transversal benefits, “New Energies” is yet another demonstration of how every energy transition strategy is directed not only towards the needs of nature but also towards the well-being of the economy, the local area and local communities. It is also a further confirmation of Enel Grids’ commitment to a path of ongoing research and innovation which has already involved meters, street cabinets, secondary substations and power line supports, which together form the metaphoric backbone of the power grid of the future: one that is even more safe, sustainable, resilient and digital.