THE first section of the controversial £350million Beauly to Denny power line has gone live.
• Beauly to Fort Augustus section electrified
• First time a 400kV line has gone live in north of Scotland
• Large pylons sparked controversy among residents
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) was given the go ahead by Scottish ministers to install a 400,000-volt, 220 kilometre overhead transmission line to replace the existing 132kV line – seen as key to transporting electricity from renewable plants to England.
Scottish Hydro Electric (SHE) Transmission – a subsidiary of SSE – today marked the “energisation” of the north section, which runs between Beauly and Fort Augustus.
The section, which runs via Fasnakyle, was switched today with an operating voltage of 400kV, the first time this higher voltage has been used in the north of Scotland.
The route for the high voltage cable between Beauly, north of Inverness, and Denny, in south-east Scotland, sparked massive controversy as the new pylons carrying the line were much larger than those they were replacing.
A total of 600 new towers are being built - a reduction of 200 on the existing number. But some towers reach heights of 65m (213ft).
Anti-pylon campaigners called for the line to be routed underground, claiming the new pylons will spoil the countryside and mountain landscapes.
The project was first proposed in 2005 and the Scottish Government gave it the green light following a public inquiry in 2010.
It is expected to be completed by next year, with costs rising from £350 to an estimated £600.
Mark Mathieson, managing director of networks at SSE, said: “This is a proud moment for SSE.
“Our progress is testament to the teamwork which identified the need for the line, guided it through planning and has now delivered the first section of the UK’s longest transmission line through some of its most challenging terrain.
“Over the past two years, the project has generated around £86 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the Scottish economy and created around 1,500 jobs.
“We hope to replicate the positive benefits from this project with the other grid upgrades that SHE Transmission is progressing as part of a multi billion pound investment programme which will help increase security of supply, decarbonise electricity supplies and promote sustainable economic growth.”
David Gardner, director of transmission, added: “Construction of the north section started in 2010 and we have now completed 136 towers, over 50km of overhead line and three substations.
“With energisation, we have successfully integrated the north section of Beauly Denny into our wider network.
“This is a complex electrical engineering project, requiring a high level of skill and care. The teams involved in constructing the towers, substations and overhead lines have been exceptional.
“We look forward to completing the next two sections which, along with the section being completed by Scottish Power Transmission around Stirling, will lead to full energisation in 2015 and the connection of up to 1.2GW of renewable energy, making a significant contribution to renewable energy targets
“Our multi billion pound programme of grid upgrades for the north of Scotland is gaining momentum and our success in energising the north section of Beauly Denny is further evidence of the significant progress being made.”
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “This newly upgraded line will help support many renewable energy projects in the north of Scotland, providing thousands of homes and businesses across the country with clean renewable electricity.
“Upgrading grid infrastructure is one of our biggest challenges in reaching the 2020 target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of our electricity needs from renewables and its major investment projects like the Beauly-Denny transmission line which will help us achieve this.”
Meanwhile, SSE has reported a substantial rise in total electricity output from renewable sources, which include conventional hydro electric schemes, onshore and offshore wind farms and dedicated biomass plants.
In an interim management statement, the company said output reached 1,756 gigawatt hours in the three months to 30 June - up from 1,331 gigawatt hours in the same period last year.
SSE said this partly reflected “additional capacity being in operation”.