After over 500km of conductor cable, 9,500 cubic metres of concrete, almost 3,000 tonnes of steel and around 500,000 working hours – the new Port Ann to Crossaig overhead line project has been energised.

Stretching from Port Ann substation near Lochgilphead to the substation at Crossaig, the new overhead line developed by SSEN Transmission and their Principal Contractor, Balfour Beatty, is around 45km in length.  Supported on 148 newly installed steel lattice towers, the new line has been designed to be more resilient in extreme weather events, enhancing the security of supply for those living and working in the area. 

This is the first major project to be energised under SSEN Transmission’s RIIO T2 Framework, marking a major milestone in their wider strategy to deliver a network for net zero emissions across the north of Scotland. 

The new line has been built to replace the existing 132kV line, originally built in the 1950s, which has reached the end of its operational life. SSEN Transmission has future-proofed the new overhead line by building it to operate at 132kV with a capacity increase to 275kV, which can accommodate future contracted electricity generation onto the grid.

Following on from energisation of the new overhead line, the existing 132kV line will be decommissioned and carefully removed from the landscape. This work is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

During peak construction, around 150 people worked on the new overhead line between Port Ann to Crossaig, with over half a million working hours spent delivering the project across SSEN Transmission and its contractors. 

The Port Ann to Crossaig project is the second phase in the wider Inveraray to Crossaig powerline upgrade, with the first phase – Inveraray to Port Ann – energised in July 2021.   The replacement line, which stretches a total of 84km across both phases, serves as the main arterial route for electricity transmission in Argyll, keeping the lights on for homes and businesses throughout the Peninsula. 

Building a project of this size has significantly benefited the local economy.  Teams across both Phase 1 and 2 of the Inveraray to Crossaig project have contributed significantly to the £7 million spent by SSEN Transmission and their contractors on food and accommodation in the Argyll and Bute Council area since April 2020, including spending around 50,000 nights in local accommodation!

As a stakeholder-led business, the team has worked to keep the community informed throughout the project via monthly community liaison groups to keep stakeholders up to date on progress. The team also carried out various volunteering initiatives to give something back to the area, which included projects such as installing a new sandpit for the outdoor nursery MAKI Pups, run by Argyll and the Isles Coast and Countryside Trust; painting the interior living space of Ardfenaig Residential Home in Ardrishaig; and donating high-vis clothing and torches to Tarbert High School to help keep pupils safe on their commute to school during the winter months. 

SSEN Transmission has committed to replanting over 270 hectares of trees which were removed during construction and, where possible, opting for native tree species.   Last year, SSEN Transmission and leading community and conservation organisation Argyll and the Isles Coast and Countryside Trust (ACT), and Argyll and Bute Council joined forces to help deliver these tree planting commitments and, in doing so, help support and enhance Scotland’s rainforest in Argyll.

The ground-breaking partnership has already seen the initial planting phase get underway on Argyll and Bute Council’s sites near Lochgilphead, which, once complete, will see approximately 50,000 native trees planted.  By planting native species, the planting will support local flora and fauna, creating natural habitats for native species to thrive and supporting SSEN Transmission’s commitments to deliver biodiversity net gain and compensatory planting on all its major projects.

The planting will also create a natural asset for the local community to enjoy for generations to come, leaving a positive lasting legacy beyond SSEN Transmission’s primary objective of delivering a network for net zero emissions across the north of Scotland.

SSEN Transmission Project Manager Peter Brum said: “Energising the line is a hugely significant milestone in the Port Ann to Crossaig project, and I’m delighted that after 24 months of hard work from across our teams and contractors Balfour Beatty and Scottish Woodlands, the new line is now live.

“The Port Ann to Crossaig replacement line joins to form the full Inveraray to Crossaig overhead line, which is providing a more secure, reliable and safe means of transporting energy to homes and businesses right across Argyll. 

“Energising on schedule is a testament to everyone’s hard work and dedication in the often challenging working conditions brought by the Argyll weather and the remote locations of some parts of the line.  The team came together to deliver this project safely, and while this project hasn’t been without its challenges, it is testament to the team’s experience, professionalism and dedication that when faced with problems, we have worked together to reach solutions.  As a project team we are proud of the role we are playing in delivering a network for net zero.

“We would like to thank the communities and land owners along the route for their support and continued patience throughout the build, without which the project and its role in reinforcing the transmission network in Argyll would not have been possible.”

David Nevin, Balfour Beatty Senior Project Manager, said: “The successful energisation of the remaining circuits marks a momentous milestone for everyone involved from the Balfour Beatty and SSEN Transmission project teams. We are live and operational from Inveraray through to Crossaig.  This upgrade secures the supply of energy to consumers in the Argyll & Bute Peninsula and supports the connection of increased renewable generation.

“We were exceptionally lucky to have had so many fantastic people support us in the delivery of the project. Everyone involved should be very proud of what we’ve achieved together in some of the most difficult and challenging terrain in the UK. This, combined with a challenging programme, all add to the sense of satisfaction upon successful energisation.”

Teams are now turning to the final phase of work, which involves removing the old towers and removing the previous overhead line and removing the old towers.  This will be followed by reinstating construction areas and temporary access tracks, which will help restore areas temporarily used during the build. 

To find out more about the project, visit: https://www.ssen-transmission.co.uk/projects/project-map/inveraray—crossaig/

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