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Energy firm pleased with progress on 'humongous' Caithness switching station project


By Alan Hendry

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The SSEN Transmission structure taking shape at Noss. Picture: Alan Hendry
The SSEN Transmission structure taking shape at Noss. Picture: Alan Hendry

Energy firm SSEN Transmission has praised the dedication of the team working on its vast construction site near Noss Head and acknowledged the support it has received from the community.

The company and its principal contractor for civil works, BAM Nuttall, started constructing the Caithness HVDC Switching Station at the end of November last year as part of the Shetland HVDC project.

The partially built structure was described as "humongous" at a recent community council meeting in Wick, although SSEN Transmission says earth landscaped bunds will help to reduce the visual impact.

Once complete, the switching station will play a key role in facilitating the connection of renewable energy from Shetland to the GB transmission system via a 250km subsea cable.

SSEN Transmission says "excellent progress" has been made over the past 10 months, with the steelwork for the switching hall likely to be finished by the end of September.

Work has begun on the switching hall floor, which is being laid in slabs, and this is expected to be completed by December.

SSEN Transmission says the roof and wall cladding will be installed as soon as the steelwork is completed. The building should have a roof and be installed by the end of the year.

Off-site culverts have been installed under the main access road, allowing surface water to drain into the SuDS (Sustainable urban drainage system) ponds on-site.

A spokesperson for SSEN Transmission said: “Construction on-site is now well under way and we are making excellent progress, which has been down to the hard work and dedication of the whole team, and some very good summer weather.

"The switching hall building is now taking shape with the steelwork expected to be completed by the end of September.

"We would like to thank the local community for their support and the interest they have shown in the project over the last 10 months."

SSEN Transmission community liaison manager Sharon Powell gave an online presentation about the development at the August meeting of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council. Joanna Coghill, the community council chairperson, said her reaction on seeing the huge metalwork frame rising from the landscape had been: "It's humongous."

Ms Powell told community councillors that SSEN Transmission employees may be able to help with improvements to play parks or community gardens as part of an initiative that allows them to give a helping hand to community projects on days off from their usual job.

She also pointed out that lifebuoys could be provided for swimmers at the North Baths and Trinkie outdoor pools.

Mrs Coghill suggested improvements could be carried out at the Noss Head car park, which comes under the remit of Sinclair Bay Community Council. She added that community councillors would be keen to take part in a site visit to the switching station.

The switching station building viewed from the Hill Road near Staxigoe. Picture: Alan Hendry
The switching station building viewed from the Hill Road near Staxigoe. Picture: Alan Hendry

In a newsletter issued in March this year, SSEN Transmission stated: "The switching station is located in a low-lying area which will be further excavated to conceal the building and will also be surrounded by earth landscaped bunds which will further contribute to reducing visual impact.

"The building has a higher level of architectural design and landscaping than many others of its type have seen, as visual impact was a key concern.

"The earth landscape bunds will be planted with scrub woodland, rich wildflower meadow mix seeding with a security fence inside of the bunded area, thereby further minimising visibility from the site boundary.

"All necessary environmental protection measures during construction are being implemented."

The structure at Noss will allow the flow of electricity to be managed between three underground HVDC circuits – one from a converter station at Spittal, one from a converter station at Kergord in Shetland and one to a converter station at Blackhillock in Moray.

The Spittal HVDC converter station went online in December 2018.


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