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Work to start on Noss Head switching station

By David G Scott

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A major development tied in with renewable energy is about to get underway at Noss Head just outside of Wick which will put Caithness at the "forefront of HVDC technology".

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Transmission and its principal contractor for all civil works, BAM Nuttall, will begin construction of the Caithness high voltage direct current (HVDC) switching station next Monday (November 30) – marking a key milestone for the Shetland HVDC project.

An illustration of Noss Head switching station.
An illustration of Noss Head switching station.

SSEN’s strategic priority is to enable the transition to a low carbon economy through building the transmission infrastructure necessary to connect and transport renewable energy.

Once complete the Caithness HVDC 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. The switching station at Noss Head 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. Making it possible to take the energy from where it is generated to where it is needed.

The direct current switching station (DCSS), is the first of its kind to be built in Europe, making this a landmark occasion for generation within SSE and especially for Caithness. This is the second time within the last five years that Caithness has been at the forefront of HVDC technology and distribution, with the Spittal HVDC converter station going online in December 2018.

Over the next couple of months, starting from Monday next week, the team will be focussing on the initial civil engineering work which will involve the creation of a new access track and a haul road to the site, as well as setting up a temporary site compound and welfare facilities.

Once the early enabling works are complete, the team will then focus on site drainage, minor watercourse diversion work and the installation of environmental mitigations, ahead of commencing the general earthworks early next year.

There will also be activity in the area off site as work commences on the undergrounding of sections of existing overhead power lines in the area in January. This activity is scheduled to be complete in Spring 2021.

Lead project manager, Fionán Doonan, said: “The Caithness switching station is a key component of the Shetland HVDC project, enabling up to 600MW of clean renewable energy to connect to the grid. Once complete, it will play a key role in facilitating the transition to net zero emissions.

“We have been working hard over the last couple of months to prepare for construction, and we are delighted that work will soon be getting underway. We have also been working closely with the local supply chain ahead of the commencement of work on the project, opening up contract opportunities for local companies.

“As a responsible developer, we will continue to work closely with the local community throughout the construction phase to ensure we actively mitigate any impact of construction activities and minimise disruption where possible.”

To find out more about the Shetland HVDC link project, please visit www.ssen-transmission.co.uk/projects/shetland/

Consultation event in Wick over Shetland transmission link

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