SSEN Transmission and their contractor, Wood T&D, celebrated as they brought two years of hard work to a close, completing the multi-million pound restringing of the 87km long Loch Buidhe to Dounreay overhead transmission line in the North of Scotland. The construction work has been completed ahead of target despite new challenges introduced by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Loch Buidhe to Dounreay overhead line has played a vital role in Scotland’s energy story for over half a century, as it was first constructed in the 1950’s to transport energy generated at Dounreay Nuclear Power station. It was one of the first major arteries of the transmission network in the North of Scotland and played a vital role in reliably transporting electricity over long distances from where it was generated to where it was needed. 

When Dounreay closed in 1995 it wasn’t the end of the story for the line, with new wind power connecting to the national grid,  in the coming years it was to play its most important role yet, facilitating the transition to net zero. 

Typically, the transmission towers can last for up to 80 years, whereas the conductors, insulators and fittings normally last for about 40 years. Each overhead line will usually go through at least one refurbishment during its lifespan. SSEN Transmission’s first priority to safely deliver a robust, efficient and reliable network to its customers in the most sustainable way, and they will always look to refurbish a line and will only build a new one if a refurbishment is not feasible. 

The Loch Buidhe to Dounreay  line travels over some of Scotland’s most challenging and remote terrain, as well as being exposed to some of Scotland’s toughest weather.  In order to reach each transmission tower, SSEN Transmission employed the services of local helicopter company PDG, who would fly material and equipment up to each remote tower location,  allowing the teams on site to carry out their work. 

Using the helicopter was also important as this enabled the team to mitigate the environmental impact of constructing long access tracks to facilitate the works. The project’s commitment to limiting the environmental impact was recognised by The Green Apple Environmental Awards, commending T&D Wood for their environmental diligence. 

Project Manager, Duncan Macdonald said: “This has definitely been a challenging project, but also a rewarding one, working in some of Scotland’s remotest and most stunning landscapes. The work took approximately 180,000 hours to complete, and now the work is complete we can step back and celebrate a job well done and recognise the hard work of everyone involved. 

“A project like this wouldn’t be possible without the support of the landowners and stakeholders along the route, without whose co-operation we could not have completed the works. I look forward to the line seeing another 40 years of service, transporting clean, green energy and playing its role in supporting the transition to net zero.”

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