Whilst it may have been milder winter than normal for most, with snow shovels and antifreeze staying in storage for another year, for the team of engineers and contractors responsible for connecting Stronelairg wind farm to the electricity transmission network in the north of Scotland, it has been anything but.

Working at a height of over 625M above sea-level in a remote area of the Highlands, the team have faced a regular battle against the elements, with sub-zero blizzard conditions a common challenge, and that’s just to get out the site compound before starting work on the wind farm connection!

Following the welcome return of milder weather over recent weeks, Project Manager, Johannes Smit, reflects on the immense challenges the team has faced over the winter months and pays tribute to the dedication of the workforce for keeping the project on schedule.

“At a height of over 625M above sea-level Stronelairg wind farm will be one of the highest wind farms to connect to our network, which under normal circumstances would pose significant logistical challenges, let alone carrying out this work during winter months.

“However, in order to meet the challenging timescale required by the developer of Stronelairg wind farm, SSE Renewables, we took the decision to get to work as soon as practically possible, which meant developing a construction programme that started in earnest just as the bad weather started to set in.

“To put into context the challenges we have been faced with, specialist snow moving equipment has been regularly deployed, not just to allow work to continue on site but to clear the access to the site!

“Despite the daily challenges of working in such extreme conditions, where the weather can change in a blink of an eye, the project remains firmly on track for completion to meet our customer’s needs. I would like to pay tribute to the team of engineers and contractors for maintaining such a challenging programme in what is arguably one of the most logistically difficult wind farm connections we have every undertaken.”

Due to the remote location of the wind farm substation, a temporary accommodation camp has been established on top of the mountain to house the workforce. Having the camp so close to site both minimises the risk associated with travelling 19km up a mountain and also provides a very welcome refuge in the event the weather closes in and the teams need to seek safe shelter from the elements.

At the main camp, there is a fully serviced canteen providing a selection of healthy meals four times per day and the camp also includes a variety of recreational areas including a TV room with pool table, dart board and table football. There is also a well-equipped gym with a selection of cardio machines and weight training equipment.

Commenting, Andrew Hogg, Site Supervisor for Stronelairg Substation, said:

“With up to 100 people sleeping on site every night, these are not inconsiderable facilities that have been provided. Everything had to be considered including how those working up here would keep in contact with family and friends, and how they can relax when they are not working.

“At the end of the day, if the workforce is not happy with the facilities they would not be willing to stay here and we are delighted with the standard of accommodation and the great response to the facilities from those staying on site.”
When planning the project, the safety of the workforce was paramount and as a result of the remoteness of the site, SSEN took the decision to employ a full time qualified paramedic on site. The paramedic has a dedicated 4x4 vehicle which is easily identifiable to all on site and in addition, there is a fully equipped medical room on site to cater for any medical incidents.

Johannes added:
“Safety is our number priority and if it’s not safe, we simply don’t do it. The safety record on site has been exemplary so far but we won’t get complacent and the presence of a permanent medic means we can respond immediately to any incidents to ensure the continued welfare and wellbeing of our teams.”

The Stronelairg windfarm connection remains on schedule to meet the developer’s grid connection date of March 2018. To connect the windfarm to the transmission network, SSEN is carrying out the following works:

  • Construction of a new indoor 33k/132kV substation adjacent to windfarm control building at Stronelairg.
  • Construction of 10km of 132kV underground cable to connect Stronelairg to Melgarve.
  • Construction of a new 132/400kV GIS substation and T-junction transmission tower at Melgarve, where the circuit joins onto the existing Beauly-Denny overhead line.

To find out more about the Stronelairg project, please visit the dedicated project page.

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