Turkey, a country that has long vied to become part of the European Union, is finally part of its grid, at least. The nation’s power system was synchronized with Continental Europe’s interconnected grid this September, marking the beginning of a year-long trial period in which security and performance will be monitored.

Most electric systems in Europe have synchronized currents, but the grids of a few nations—including Turkey, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Great Britain—have remained separate. Turkey, which has been trying to connect to the European grid for more than 10 years, is now connected to the Bulgarian system by two 400-kilovolt (kV) lines and to the Greek system by a 400-kV line. The connection will reportedly allow for expanded energy and economic opportunities, enabling the Turkish Electricity Transmission Co. (TEIAS) to buy and sell power in the European power market. At the same time, it is expected to strengthen the reliability and availability of European grids thanks to Turkey’s massive renewable energy sources.

According to the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), the island operation tests of the connection were carried out successfully this January in high-load conditions and between March and April in low-load conditions. During the trial period, noncommercial energy exchanges are to be carried out between Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece. Once this phase is completed, ENTSO-E said it would allow for limited capacity allocation for commercial exchanges between Turkey and the organization’s Continental Europe synchronous area.

Turkey has been overhauling its primary and secondary frequency control performance in preparation for the connection. Grid operator TEIAS and the Turkish electricity generation company EUAS have also been working to rehabilitate power plants to improve their operation and control systems.

The connection was undertaken using GE’s smart grid technology at an undisclosed price. GE said in a statement in September that the connection was a “vital step” for both sides. “The territory serviced by ENTSO-E is one of the highest demand regions for energy in the world, according to a report issued in 2009 by the [Turkish] Ministry of Energy,” the company said. “The energy policies of ENTSO-E’s countries are driving a single market model through the synchronization of more networks, thus increasing the reliability of the supply of electricity to maximize the efficiency of generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption of energy while minimizing environmental impact.”

GE claims that engineering for the system was completed “in a matter of months.” The smart grid will now serve to monitor grid status at the points of connection and automate the control of generation and load within Turkey. “The system will optimize power sharing and power quality while improving reliability and preventing cascading outages,” the company said.

Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.