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Coronavirus pandemic hits Fort Augustus to Skye powerline project

By John Davidson

The upgraded powerline would allow for future renewable generation.
The upgraded powerline would allow for future renewable generation.

A series of consultation events on a proposed powerline upgrade have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The replacement powerline from Fort Augustus to Skye is one of the most significant energy investments in the west Highlands, according to SSEN Transmission.

It said the current line was constructed in three sections between 1956 and 1989 and is now reaching the end of its operational life, meaning the replacement is essential to maintain security of supply to homes and businesses along its route, as well as to the Western Isles, which is supplied by two subsea cables from Ardmore point on Skye.

The increased capacity of the line would also allow renewable energy projects to connect to the transmission network in the future as more projects come online in the push towards net-zero.

Project manager Euan Smith said: “The replacement of the Fort Augustus to Skye line represents a major investment in the area, critical to maintain security of supply and support the transition to net-zero emissions.

“As a responsible developer, we are committed to work closely with the local community throughout every stage of the process and provide feedback to help inform the projects design.”

While the drop-in events due to take place at Dunvegan, Portree, Broadford, Kyleakin, Glengarry, Glenelg and Fort Augustus have been put off, SSEN Transmission says that the consultation materials are available on the project website at www.ssen-transmission.co.uk/projects/skye-reinforcement

A spokeswoman for SSEN said: “Consultation is central to the development of our projects, it is an opportunity to share our proposals with the community and hear their views. Without this valuable feedback, we would be unable to progress projects and reach a balanced proposal.

“We would like to reassure the local community that by postponing our planned events their opportunity to provide their feedback has not been missed.”

The new line is expected to be made up of a combination of steel transmission towers and wooden poles, with undergrounding and subsea cables considered in certain locations.

Further public consultation is expected to take place in the autumn to present the technology options proposed as part of the detailed preferred route consultation stage.

Meanwhile, BP said its helicopter flights to offshore platforms west of Shetland would bypass the islands in order to reduce the risk of infection.

There are 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Shetland and BP said this temporary measure would reduce the risk of spreading the infection. Workers will now be transported to the platforms directly from Aberdeen.

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