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    Huge overhead power line is planned at Scots beauty spot


    September 7, 2022 - Martin Williams

     

      By Martin Williams

      A MASSIVE new overhead line running for over 100 miles across some of the Highlands and Aberdeenshire’s most picturesque areas is being planned in a bid to enable “significant” growth of renewable energy and support transition away from fossil fuels.

      Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks Transmission, which owns, operates and develops the high voltage electricity transmission system in the north of Scotland and islands, has unveiled the strategy which it says is a “critical project of national significance” as it has been identified as “essential” to deliver government targets for offshore wind.

      The proposed project will involve building a new 400kV overhead line connection – or energy motorway - between Beauly, Blackhillock, New Deer and Peterhead to enable the transmission of renewable power into the network for onward transmission to “areas of demand further south”.

      They will transmit the electricity on wires carried on a system of mainly metal towers and large substations.

      SSEN was asked how big the pylons would be after a previous plan involving 165ft “super pylons” was mothballed five years ago in the wake of environmental concerns. There has so far been no response.

      Larger pylons – carrying 400kV and 275kV power lines – are owned by the National Grid, and support the transmission of electricity from where it is generated such as power stations or wind farms, to regional substations.

      The National Grid’s UK pylons are a minimum height of 118ft, while the tallest are 623ft tall.

      It is also not yet clear from SSEN how much the project would be and when it is hoped work could begin and end.

      SSEN are setting out on a series of public consultation events between September 10 and 29.

      The Scottish Government has set a target to reduce emissions of all major greenhouse gases by at least 75 per cent by 2030.

      By 2040, the SNP are committed to reduce emissions by 90%, with the aim of reaching net zero by 2045 at the latest.

      It comes after controversial £81m plans to upgrade an existing line between Beauly and Kintore to carry a greater amount of power from renewable energy projects were abandoned in 2017. SSEN said it was not required at that point in time.

      But conservationists including the National Trust for Scotland raised concerns that the proposed route would bring the line close to historic sites.

      The trust said it fully understood the need for Scotland to upgrade its capacity to transmit electricity, but was opposed to the upgraded transmission line being routed close to historic properties such as Castle Fraser and Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire.

      It also has concerns that the route would bring electricity towers closer to Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness.

      Perth-based SSE, whose transmission subsidiary was leading the work, had held 21 consultation events on that project.

      Beauly, near Inverness, is the site of a major substation that converts the voltage of electricity generated by renewable power projects to levels that can be distributed to other parts of Scotland.

      SSEN said there are in the early development stages of the project and will consider the environmental, engineering and economic factors “we must consider”.

      That includes consideration on now close the line will be to properties and the effect on historical landmarks.

      SSEN says additional substation infrastructure will also be required, either extensions to existing substation sites, or new sites in the vicinity.

      Commenting on the project, Catherine Swan, SSEN Transmission senior development project manager said: “The Beauly to Peterhead project has been identified as essential to support Government targets and will be key to unlocking renewable energy generation in the north of Scotland, enabling clean electricity to be transmitted to areas of demand across the county. The project will also help deliver against Government’s plans to secure energy independence and energy security by enabling the growth in low carbon, homegrown power, reducing the country’s dependence on, and price exposure to, volatile global wholesale gas markets.”

      CREDIT: Martin Williams

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