A major section of the overhead lines that have connected Beauly to Dounreay for over 50 years have been replaced with newer, more efficient conductors by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

The 91 steel towers that have been in place between Beauly and Loch Buidhe since the 1960s have been given a new lease of life following the installation of new higher-capacity conductors and fittings which have increased the capacity of the local network by around 30% and enabled renewable generation to be transported from the north of Scotland.

SSEN Lead Project Manager, Daryn Lucas, said: “The replacement of these lines has enabled us to increase the amount of renewable energy that can connect to our network without the need to build more towers.

“The rural location of our assets means that we have to consider the surrounding environment and wildlife when doing any works. As a responsible developer, we engaged with ornithologists at an early stage to monitor nearby nesting ospreys to ensure that our work did not cause any disturbance.

“In some instances, our contractors utilised an innovative catenary aerial support system (CASS) to replace lines that crossed over roads or railways. Traditionally we would use large scaffolding structures and netting but this system allows us to quickly and safely support the conductors with a tensioned rope and support blocks. If a failure were to occur, the support blocks would catch the conductor and prevent it from falling to the ground. This allowed us to quickly carry out works without disrupting local commuters.”

Work has been underway since April 2016 to replace 3 phases of the upgraded 275kV circuit that each span a distance of 62km by SSEN’s principle contractor Amec Foster Wheeler and at its peak saw a workforce of over 60 employed on the project. The conclusion of this phase of the works means two-thirds of the Beauly to Dounreay transmission link is now upgraded with the final section of works planned for completion in 2020.

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