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Loch Buidhe to Dounreay overhead line upgrade completed


By Alan Hendry

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Material and equipment was flown by helicopter to tower locations.
Material and equipment was flown by helicopter to tower locations.

Refurbishment of an overhead power line stretching from central Sutherland to the north coast of Caithness has been completed ahead of schedule, despite the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The multimillion-pound project involved restringing the 87km line from Loch Buidhe, near Bonar Bridge, to Dounreay and was carried out over a two-year period by SSEN Transmission and its contractor Wood T&D.

The line was constructed in the 1950s to help transport electricity generated at the Dounreay nuclear site to where it was needed. With wind power now connecting to the national grid, and more to come, SSEN Transmission says the line is facilitating the transition to net-zero emissions.

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.

Helicopter company PDG was hired to fly material and equipment to tower locations to allow the team to carry out the work.

The Loch Buidhe to Dounreay project was described as 'challenging but rewarding'.
The Loch Buidhe to Dounreay project was described as 'challenging but rewarding'.

The project’s commitment to limiting the environmental impact was recognised by the Green Apple Environment Awards, commending Wood T&D Wood for its diligence.

Project manager Duncan Macdonald said: “This has definitely been a challenging project, but also a rewarding one. The work took approximately 180,000 hours, 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 work. 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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