The team behind SSEN’s new Thurso South substation is buzzing this morning after their innovative scheme to protect the local bumblebee population scooped three gongs at last night’s prestigious BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards.

SSEN’s work with the  Bumblebee Conservation Trust had been nominated in two categories, “Project of the year: medium/large scale” and “Pollinator”; not only did the team win these two awards, they also walked away with the much coveted “Overall Winner” at last night’s ceremony.

Speaking after the awards, SSEN’s Head of Environment, Richard Baldwin said:

“This is a great night for all of the team who have worked so hard to support the rare Great Yellow Bumblebee population around our Thurso South Substation. It is also an excellent example of how we work with other organisations to support both local and national environmental initiatives, in this case with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

"As a responsible developer we are committed to ensuring that our work causes the minimum amount of disruption in the local community and where possible enhances biodiversity. Winning these awards is a fantastic recognition of this ongoing commitment.”

The Great Yellow Bumblebee is amongst the rarest of bees in the UK with its numbers declining by about 90% in the past 50 years. This drop in numbers is thought to be mainly due to loss of habitat and intensification of farming processes. One of the bees’ last bastions is Caithness, where they can still be found across the region. The flower-rich grassy meadows in the region have different flowering plants, such as bird’s-foot trefoil, red clover and knapweed, which provide the ideal habitat for the Great Yellow Bumblebee.

SSEN’s Thurso South substation is part of its Caithness-Moray project and along with the project’s main contractor, Balfour Beatty, SSEN was keen to cause the minimum amount of disruption, not just for the civilian communities, but also the flora and fauna. In recognition of the presence of this rare species of bumblebee, SSEN sought advice from local bee experts to ensure that its essential works did not jeopardise the lives of the bees or their homes.

Following this advice, work was undertaken to create a more bee-friendly habitat by planting a flower-rich landscape with around 10 hectares of earth re-seeded around the substation site. By providing a different mix of flowers, including early flowering plants and nesting and hibernation places, it is hoped that other species will also benefit from this biodiversity enhancement.


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