• Terna

    Business Excellence in 3D Substation Design

    Rome, Italy

Project Summary


Terna, a large electricity transmission grid operator in Italy, manages 63,500 km of high-voltage lines and 491 substations. Management began a standardization and unification initiative to optimize costs, increase network reliability, and simplify equipment management and adoption of new technologies. To meet the multiple demands, Terna needed a new, 3D engineering platform that would support a streamlined, intelligent modeling approach to substation design and enable automatic generation of estimated bills of material and costs.


In 2015, Terna worked with Bentley to determine if Bentley Substation could meet its needs. To assess the software, they ran a pilot project, which included using Bentley Substation to support automatic, accurate 3D HV substation creation and editing from available single line wiring. Bentley Professional Services developed a “Modularized Substation Builder” tool—fully integrated with the Bentley Substation interface—that streamlined 3D substation design by combining physical and electrical design functions in a single interface. The model is built using a SQL database of intelligent 3D equipment components and 2D electrical schematic symbols that possess properties of the equipment they represent, the wiring connections they support, and the engineering principles that govern design.


Bentley produced an automatic, integrated representation of the 3D physical model and electrical design, in accordance with the pilot requirements, proving that Terna could use it to move from a 2D to a 3D-realistic design environment. The integrated design approach reduces the amount of manual coordination required to keep the electrical and 3D physical designs consistent. Terna can easily evaluate different solutions to respond to normative changes, technical innovations, sustainability requirements, and environmental concerns.


The intelligent substation design solution based on Bentley Substation empowers Terna’s project teams to design substations faster, while reducing errors and minimizing rework. Moreover, the 3D environment is expected to reduce operational costs by enforcing design standards and increasing the accuracy of design work. The optimized support during operational and maintenance activities allows users to validate and select the best options, improving the efficiency of field personnel and further reducing operational costs.

  • By adopting the Bentley Substation solution, Terna can significantly reduce project costs—for example, by eliminating duplicate activities in the design workflow.
  • Terna can use the solution to automatically generate a bill of materials and cost reports and use existing 2D drawings to speed up the overall delivery of 3D models.
  • Terna expects the solution will reduce operational costs, accelerate design work, and help the company plan for substations more effectively.
  • “Bentley’s solution was found to be an ideal choice for improving our highly customized Unified Substation project. The software’s unique characteristics, such as flexibility and scalability, allowed us to automate the whole project workflow. Benefits in design and collaboration phases will be appreciable, allowing our designers and workforce to cooperate effectively and innovate new processes flows.”

    Ing. Andrea Zanotti Terna