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High-voltage underground cable connection work under way at Noss Head in Caithness to link Shetland to the GB national grid for first time


By John Davidson

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Work on the underground cable gets under way at Noss Head.
Work on the underground cable gets under way at Noss Head.

Work has begun in Caithness to connect the mainland electricity grid with Shetland via a high voltage cable.

SSEN Transmission is installing underground HVDC cables along the 2.5km route at Noss Head which will connect with the underwater route.

The company describes the work as a major milestone is its project to connect Shetland to the mainland via a 600MW cable, which will allow power produced in the islands to be exported to the national grid for the first time.

The onshore cable will run from the switching station at Noss Head to the subsea cable landfall point, south of the Noss Head lighthouse. Once installed it will connect with the 260km subsea HVDC cable.

The cable will allow connection of new renewable generation, unlocking Shetland’s potential to generate and export renewable energy.

The cable installation works are being carried out by SSEN Transmission’s principal contractor, cable specialists NKT and their local subcontractor Gunns.

It follows the progress made on the construction of the switching station at Noss Head and the cable installation and convertor station works ongoing on Shetland.

NKT are an experienced team who were involved in the installation of the Caithness Moray HVDC link, completed in 2019.

Due to the coastal cliffs at Noss Head, where the subsea cable makes landfall, the cable duct will be installed using an HDD (horizontal directional drilling). The HDD is a trenchless drilling method used to install ducts beneath the ground through which cables can be pulled, providing minimum disturbance to the surrounding area.,

Work on the underground cable gets under way at Noss Head.
Work on the underground cable gets under way at Noss Head.

Once the ducts are installed and cable has been delivered, the cable will be pulled into the ducts in sections, jointed and then terminated at the two converter stations.

Lead project manager Chris Finnigan, responsible for the cable installation project, said: “It’s great to see the cable installation getting under way and see Shetland’s connection to the UK grid for the first time becoming a reality.

"It is a significant milestone for the project, it has taken a lot of hard work and collaboration with our colleagues at NKT and with local stakeholders to get to this stage.

“We’re extremely grateful to everyone who lives near the cable route for their co-operation and understanding whilst we carry out the works.”

Community liaison manager Sharon Powell can be contacted at sharon.powell@sse.com if people in the area have questions about the works.

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