Case study
Keeping the power flowing in remote Scotland

In partnership with our client, SSEN Transmission

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Project details
Project name:
The Loch Buidhe to Dounreay SSEN overhead line
Client name:
SSEN Transmission
Brad Mizell
Vice President, Growth & Development, Renewable Energy & Power
David Felton
Senior Vice President – Power Solutions
Key stats
Type of project:
Overhead transmission line in the North of Scotland
Overall distance:
Restringing of the 87km long Loch Buidhe to Dounreay
Environmental impact:
This line will transport clean energy for years to come

In partnership with our client, SSEN Transmission, we brought two years of hard work to a close, completing the restringing of the 87km long Loch Buidhe to Dounreay overhead transmission line in the North of Scotland. The construction work was completed ahead of programme despite the new constraints in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Loch Buidhe to Dounreay overhead line has played a vital role in Scottish’s energy story for over half a century, first constructed in the 1950’s to transport energy generated at Dounreay Nuclear Power station. It was one of the first major arteries of the transmission network in the North of Scotland and played a vital role in reliably transporting electricity over a long distance from where it was generated to where it was needed.

When Dounreay closed in 1995 it wasn’t the end of the story for the line, with several hydro stations already connected to the line transporting clean energy, and new wind power looking to connect to the national grid in the coming years, it was yet to play its most important role, facilitating the transition to net zero.

Typically, the transmission towers will last for about 80 years, whereas the conductors, insulators and fittings normally last for about 40 years. Each overhead line will usually go through at least one refurbishment during its lifespan. Its SSEN Transmission’s first priority to safely deliver a robust, efficient and reliable network to its customers in the most sustainable way, they will always look to refurbish and will only build a new line if a refurbishment is not feasible.

The line travels over some of Scotland’s most challenging and remote terrain, which faces some of Scotland’s harshest weather.  In order to reach each transmission tower, the team employed the services of local helicopter company PDG who would fly material and equipment up to each remote tower location to allow the team to carry out the work.

Using the helicopter enabled the team to mitigate the environmental impact of constructing long access tracks to facilitate the works. The projects commitment to limiting the environmental impact was recognised by The Green Apple Environmental Awards, commending Wood for their environmental diligence.

The safety of the team carrying out the work was paramount, and the works have been completed over the two years with no “lost time injuries”, reflecting an excellent safety performance.

Pylons in the scottish highlands

“This has definitely been a challenging project, but also a rewarding one, working in some of Scotland’s remotest and most stunning landscapes. The work took approximately 180,000 hours to complete, and now we can step back and celebrate a job well done and recognise the hard work of everyone involved.

“A project like this wouldn’t be possible without the support of the landowners and stakeholders along the route, without who’s co-operation we could not have completed the works. I look forward to the line seeing another 40 years of service, transporting clean green energy and playing its role in supporting the transition to net zero.”

SSEN Project Manager, Duncan Macdonald

“The successful completion of this project is down to our commitment to working in partnership with our client SSEN to develop solutions to the challenges that came with working in such a remote location. I am proud of our efforts to minimise environmental impact during the project and in enabling this line to transport clean energy for years to come.”

David Felton, SVP Transmission and Distribution at Wood

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