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Orkney land works begin in £30m electricity cable replacement scheme in Pentland Firth


By Alan Hendry

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The specialist marine vessel Normand Clipper working on the project.
The specialist marine vessel Normand Clipper working on the project.

A £30 million programme to replace one of the two submarine electricity distribution cables connecting Orkney to Caithness has reached a new milestone, with work said to be progressing well.

Specialist marine vessels Normand Clipper and the Global Symphony have been operating between Murkle Bay on the north coast of the mainland and Rackwick Bay on Hoy to install and bury the new subsea cable as part of the project by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

SSEN has now reached a key point in the scheme by starting land-based works on Hoy to replace existing overhead power lines at Rackwick with underground cable.

It has been working in partnership with principal contractor McGowan Environmental Engineering.

The land works involve careful excavation along a 7km route to make way for the cable.

A bulk cargo vessel was chartered to deliver 5000 tonnes of high-specification sand by sea to Lyness harbour on Hoy, with almost 30 large items of equipment and vehicles shipped from Gills Bay to Lyness under special charter on Pentland Ferries’ Pentalina.

Mark Rough, director of customer operations at SSEN, said: “The Pentland Firth East project is one of the single biggest standalone projects for our teams, with the £30 million investment critical to ensuring long-term security of supply to the islands.

“We’re pleased the project is progressing well, with cable installation and burial operations complete and our land cable works well under way. We’re committed to providing opportunities for the local supply chain as we carry out these works, so it’s great to see our contract partners making best use of the local resources available.”

Derek Mackay, director of McGowan Environmental Engineering, said: “We’re delighted to be working with SSEN to deliver this significant programme of investment for the islands. In support of the local community, we are working with local suppliers to assist with the delivery of the project, including Pentland Ferries to mobilise plant and equipment and McAdie and Reeve to stockpile and distribute the specialist sand which will surround the new underground cable.

Cable coming ashore at Rackwick Bay.
Cable coming ashore at Rackwick Bay.

“For the duration of the project, we’ve leased the Hoy Centre and Rackwick Hostel to base our teams and operations. We’d like to reassure everyone our employees continue to adhere to social distancing measures and government guidance to protect the safety of the local community as we work.”

Over the coming weeks, various vessels will be carrying out operations in the Pentland Firth as part of the project, including laying rock bags on sections of the cable and installing cable protection near the shore.

SSEN says it remains on track to complete all works by November.



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