A NEW overhead line running for over 100 miles across some of the Highlands and Aberdeenshire’s most picturesque areas is being planned in a bid to enable “significant” growth of renewable energy and support transition away from fossil fuels.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks Transmission, which owns, operates and develops the high voltage electricity transmission system in the north of Scotland and islands has unveiled the strategy which it says is a “critical project of national significance” as it has been identified as “essential” to deliver government targets for offshore wind.

The proposed project will involve building a new 400kV overhead line connection - or energy motorway - between Beauly, Blackhillock, New Deer and Peterhead to enable the transmission of renewable power into the network for onward transmission to “areas of demand further south”.

They will transmit the electricity on wires carried on a system of mainly metal towers and large substations.

Martin, picking this up as Laura out of the office.

SSEN was asked how big the pylons would be after a previous plan involving 165ft “super pylons” was mothballed five years ago in the wake of environmental concerns. 

The new pylons are expected to be on average even taller - at 180ft.

Larger pylons – carrying 400kV and 275kV power lines –are owned by the National Grid, and support the transmission of electricity from where it is generated such as power stations or wind farms, to regional substations.

The National Grid’s UK pylons are a minimum height of 118ft, while the tallest are 623ft tall.

'Super pylon' plan emerges to run through over 100 miles of Scots countrysideSSEN

 

SSEN are setting out on a series of public consultation events between September 10 and 29.

The Scottish Government has set a target to reduce emissions of all major greenhouse gases by at least 75% by 2030.

By 2040, the SNP are committed to reduce emissions by 90%, with the aim of reaching net zero by 2045 at the latest.

It comes after controverisal £81m plans to upgrade an existing line between Beauly and Kintore to carry a greater amount of power from renewable energy projects were abandoned in 2017.

SSEN said it was not required at that point in time.

But conservationists including the National Trust for Scotland raised concerns that the proposed route would bring the line close to historic sites.

The trust said it fully understood the need for Scotland to upgrade its capacity to transmit electricity, but was opposed to the upgraded transmission line being routed close to historic properties such as Castle Fraser and Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire.

It also has concerns that the route would bring electricity towers closer to Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness.

Perth-based SSE, whose transmission subidiary was leading the work, had held 21 consultation events on that project.

Beauly, near Inverness, is the site of a major substation that converts the voltage of electricity generated by renewable power projects to levels that can be distributed to other parts of Scotland.

'Super pylon' plan emerges to run through over 100 miles of Scots countrysideNone

SSEN said there are in the early development stages of the project and will consider the environmental, engineering and economic factors “we must consider”.

That includes consideration on now close the line will be to properties and the effect on historical landmarks.

SSEN says additional substation infrastructure will also be required, either extensions to existing substation sites, or new sites in the vicinity.

Commenting on the project, Catherine Swan, SSEN Transmission senior development project manager said: “The Beauly to Peterhead project has been identified as essential to support Government targets and will be key to unlocking renewable energy generation in the north of Scotland, enabling clean electricity to be transmitted to areas of demand across the county.

The project will also help deliver against Government’s plans to secure energy independence and energy security by enabling the growth in low carbon, homegrown power, reducing the country’s dependence on, and price exposure to, volatile global wholesale gas markets.

“Our plans are still in the early stages of developing and as a stakeholder-led business, we would encourage anyone with an interest in the project to attend one of our consultation events later this month to learn more about the proposals, meet the project team and share feedback for consideration. This feedback will help inform the more detailed routeing stage of the development process and we look forward to meeting with interested stakeholders throughout September.”

'Super pylon' plan emerges to run through over 100 miles of Scots countrysideSSE

 

Analysis

New proposals to create 100 miles of new power lines through some of the Highlands and Aberdeenshire’s greenest areas have a major hurdle to navigate - the environmental impact.

The plan to run the renewable energy motorway between Beauly, Blackhillock, New Deer and Peterhead is being touted as “essential” to deliver tough targets for offshore wind, and the nation’s aspiration to net zero by 2045.

But a previous plan involving an upgrade of the line between Beauly and Kintore with “super pylons” came unstuck five years ago in the wake of an environmental controversy.

More than 150 people turned out to one public meeting at Monymusk, Aberdeenshire amid fears that views from Bennachie could be spoiled by 165-ft pylons.

Perth-based SSE said five years ago that the network needed to be reinforced due to a recent and anticipated growth in renewable energy.

Alexander Burnett, the Aberdeenshire West Scottish Conservative MSP, who was then the party’s energy spokesman said at the time: “There is genuine concern locally about the potential impact of pylons on what is a picturesque part of the north east. In particular, the Craigearn, Leschangie and Monymusk Pylon Action Group has identified the area around Bennachie could be adversely affected.”

SSE had promised to review its options before seeking to gain approval for the pylons in the future.

Similar concerns dogged plans for the controversial Beauly to Denny power line which went fully operational along its entire length seven years ago.

But not before an inquiry opened in 2007 into the proposal, outlining the development-versus-environment battle raging around it.

The energy companies behind the project had described it as a “power super highway” between the Highlands and the central belt.

But as with initial plans for the power line crossing the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, opponents questioned the cost of the scheme and its impact on the landscape.

Opponents called it an “unnecessary act of vandalism” and likened its impact on the Highland landscape to taking a razor blade to a Rembrandt.

That line is 137 miles long and supported by 615 pylons which run through some of the country’s most inaccessible terrain.

The project supported more than 2,000 jobs over seven years but attracted around 20,000 objections.

At the time it was the longest transmission line to be built in the UK in recent times.