Noss renewable energy station 'something we should be immensely proud of'
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Have a look at our brand new digital subscription packages!
The massive renewable energy switching station taking shape outside Wick should be a source of immense pride to the community, it has been claimed.
The Caithness HVDC Switching Station will be "technically advanced" and the environment around it will become a haven for wildlife, according to community council vice-chairman Allan Farquhar.
He was among a group from the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council who were given a tour of the complex which will play a key role in connecting renewable energy from Shetland to the transmission system via a 250km subsea cable.
Energy firm SSEN Transmission and its principal contractor for civil works, BAM Nuttall, began constructing the Caithness HVDC Switching Station in November last year as part of the Shetland HVDC project.
The huge, partly built structure has become a dominant feature on the horizon at Noss, although SSEN Transmission says earth landscaped bunds will help to reduce the visual impact.
Mr Farquhar told fellow community councillors at their October meeting that the tour with construction manager Andrew Henderson had been very informative.
"What an immense building it is," Mr Farquhar said. "It's not really appreciated from the distance that we see it, but when you see it up close it's a huge place.
“It is going to be very technically advanced. I think it's the second station in the world to be built using the technology they're using for the transportation of the direct current electricity.”
Community councillors have been invited to visit again early in 2022 when the building will have more equipment installed.
Highlighting the environmentally friendly aspects of the work, Mr Farquhar explained that the site would become a “nature attraction” with ponds likely to attract wildlife.
“The bunds and walls are all going to be covered in shrubs and trees," he said. "The trees will take some time to bed in, obviously, but the whole set-up is very impressive."
Mr Farquhar added: “It's something we should be immensely proud of. Perhaps they should publicise it a wee bit more, everything good that is being done by the company. It is a tremendous advert for them, that's for sure.”
Community councillor Allan Bruce was also impressed when he toured the site last week with 11 Rolls-Royce apprentices and their supervisor, Lesley Steven.
Mr Bruce works as team leader in engineering services support at Vulcan.
“I can't speak highly enough of Andrew Henderson," he said. "The presentation that he gave us was fantastic and I got some excellent feedback from the apprentices.
“We've been invited back in the spring, once the construction has moved to the next stage. I certainly got my eyes opened – I was really impressed.”
SSEN Transmission said recently that work had begun on the switching hall floor, and this is expected to be completed by December.
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.
Community liaison manager Sharon Powell gave an online presentation about the development at the August meeting of the community council.
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.