SSEN Transmission has today announced plans to replace the existing electricity transmission powerline that runs from Fort Augustus to Ardmore in the north of Skye. The Skye Reinforcement project will be one of the most significant energy investments in the West Highlands since power was first brought to the area in the 1950’s.
The current line was constructed in three distinct sections between 1956 and 1989 and is now reaching the end of its operational life. Its planned replacement is essential to maintain security of supply to homes and businesses along its route, as well as to the Western Isles, which is supplied by two subsea cables from Ardmore point.
Keeping the lights on and improving network reliability, the replacement line will have a greater capacity to enable the connection of renewable energy looking to connect to the transmission network, supporting the transition to ‘net zero’ emissions. Given the scale of the replacement project, SSEN intends to ‘future proof’ the replacement line to allow the connection of additional renewables to help meet Government ‘net zero’ climate change targets. This will greatly reduce the need for additional major works in the future, helping keep local disruption to a minimum.
A series of consultation events are planned along the route of the line which will take place in the second half of March. The consultation events will present the preferred 1km wide route corridor proposed for the replacement line and seek feedback on this to help inform a more detailed route and alignment study.
The existing line consists of a combination of overhead wooden pole and steel lattice tower structures along its route. To meet the required capacity of the replacement line, steel structures will be required from Fort Augustus to Edinbane on Skye; with wooden pole remaining from Edinbane to Ardmore. In areas of particular sensitivity, undergrounding and subsea cables may be considered in short sections where they could address specific consenting issues, subject to environmental and engineering considerations.
As well as the conventional steel lattice towers, or ‘pylons’ as they are commonly referred to, SSEN Transmission is also considering the use of alternative innovative steel structures that may result in reduced environmental and visual impacts and the potential for lower construction impacts. Work to assess the technical suitability of steel structures will take place once the proposed route has been more defined.
Further public consultation will take place in the autumn to present the technology options proposed as part of the detailed preferred route consultation stage.
Commenting ahead of the consultation events, Project Manager, Euan Smith, said:
“The replacement of the Fort Augustus to Skye line represents a major investment in the area, critical to maintain security of supply and support the transition to net zero emissions. As a responsible developer, we are committed to work closely with the local community throughout every stage of the process and encourage anyone with an interest in the project to come along to one of the consultation events and provide feedback to help inform the projects design.”
A previous project to install a second line from Fort Augustus to Skye to connect a number of wind farms in the area was stopped in 2018 to allow for a more holistic and enduring approach to meet future security of supply needs and support the transition to net zero. All development work associated with the previous project, including the valuable local feedback provided through the previous consultations, will help inform the consideration of the replacement line.