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£64m Beauly to Keith electricity network upgrade is completed

By Calum MacLeod

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Some of the new wiring installed near Nairn.
Some of the new wiring installed near Nairn.

A multi-million pound project to bring Highland and Moray electricity infrastructure up to modern standards has now been completed.

SSEN Transmission and construction partner Balfour Beatty have now completed the final section of the Beauly to Keith over headline upgrade project, bringing to a close three years of hard work.

The Beauly and Keith power line, constructed in 1955, forms an integral part of the transmission network in the north of Scotland. In 2018 SSEN Transmission started a full refurbishment of the line, upgrading many of the towers and installing new wires and increasing the amount of electricity the line can carry.

The work will help ensure security of the electricity supplyfor the communities the line serves. The refurbishment has also enabled 70MW of new solar renewable generation to be connected to the grid, supporting the transition to net zero carbon emissions.

The project involved replacing a total of 204km of overhead line wiring, known as conductors, the installation of 3km of 132kV cable at Slackbuie in Inverness, and 4.8km at Balblair. At Beauly, the team successful completed directional drilling of new ducts under the River Beauly.

Work concluded with upgrades to the switches at Beauly and Keith substations and the installation of a new protection scheme.

One of the biggest challenges has been how much the landscape around the line has changed in the 65 years, since the line was built. With new homes and businesses constructed along its route the team had to manage works through the built-up residential areas such as Slackbuie, which now has hundreds of homes, and installing new 132kv joints in the existing cables at Elgin, again situated close to new residential developments.

During this phase of the works the team worked closely with the local community, keeping them updated on the works.

The Covid-19 lockdown brought a pause to activities while the project team reviewed working practices and put in new procedures in line with government guidance. Despite the delays caused by lockdown and adapting to the new ways of working, the team were able to complete the overhead line, cabling and substation works safely and on time.

Project manager Andrew Ewing said: “The construction works have been very challenging; the team have battled some difficult terrain as well as some particularly challenging weather conditions while carrying out the work. Most importantly for me they have met the challenge of upgrading the network whilst maintaining a secure supply of electricity to the communities the line serves.

“I would like to thank the SSEN Transmission Project team and our contract partner Balfour Beatty’s Project team for all their hard work in delivering the project safely, to budget and on programme. It has been a fantastic team effort.”

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