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SSE’s Monster Pylons in Aberdeenshire! No mention now in 2018

This is the website of West Aberdeenshire Pylon Action (WAPA).

Update on National Grid’s 2018 NOA Report and SSE’s new development plans in Aberdeenshire

On 30 January 2018 National Grid (NG) published their latest NOA (Network Options Assessment) for 2017/2018. The NOA document presents the current options for developing the transmission network of overhead and submarine power lines required to satisfy the nation’s future electricity supply. NG conduct an annual economic review of all projects submitted by the transmission companies and recommend if they should proceed to development, be put on hold for future review, or should not proceed and work stopped (note: not necessarily cancelled).

In last year’s NOA SSE’s proposed new 400kV Beauly-Blackhillock-Kintore (BBK) overhead line, which CLAMPA and WAPA fought so hard to stop, was recommended by NG ‘not to proceed’ and SSE subsequently stopped all work on the project.

We can report that the 2018 NOA contains no reference to the BBK project. Those projects in North-East Scotland that have received NG’s blessing are two upgrades to the existing lines from Blackhillock to Alyth, near Perth, and the go-ahead for two high power submarine cables from Peterhead and Torness in Lothian to Teeside. The first two projects will require expansion of the Blackhillock substation, where work has already commenced, a new substation at Rothienorman, and an expansion of the Kintore substation. The expanded Blackhillock substation will facilitate import of power from the north of Scotland and the Beatrice windfarm in the Moray Firth which is scheduled to start transmission this summer. The new substation at Rothienorman will allow power transmission between the upgraded Blackhillock-Alyth line and Peterhead. The new focus appears to be transmission from the north of Scotland, where much new power generation is located, to the markets of the Central Belt and northern England by existing overhead lines and new submarine cables.

WAPA promoted these options and others to SSEN back in 2016 as better alternatives to building an entirely new pylon line through Aberdeenshire – seems that NG have agreed with us! However, NG’s new recommendations do not rule out SSE in future resurrecting their old project to move power from Beauly through West Aberdeenshire, so we must remain vigilant.

SSE/SSEN appear to have accepted NG’s latest recommendations and issued a news release.


In Feb 2018, WAPA Chair, John Wills, wrote to SSE:

Dear Mr Gardner

WAPA (West Aberdeenshire Pylon Action) reviewed with close interest National Grid’s latest NOA report, particularly with reference to SSEN’s development plans in our area of North-East Scotland. We were gratified to learn that your proposed Beauly-Blackhillock-Kintore (BBK) 400kV project, with its gigantic towers marching across our countryside, remains off the agenda and instead the focus appears to be the export of power generated in the north of Scotland to the markets of the Central Belt and North-East England via upgraded existing East Coast overhead lines to Perthshire, upgrading the existing lines between Kintore and Peterhead, to connect to the planned high-voltage HVDC submarine cable from Peterhead to Teeside. We were pleased that your press statement on 30 January stressed these outcomes. We think that this is very much the better environmental way to move power to where it is needed without despoiling our beautiful countryside, and WAPA has continuously stated as much during our campaign against the BBK line.
However, we acknowledge that the BBK project could be re-activated in the future if SSEN see such a need, as your statement after last year’s NOA emphasised, so WAPA will remain vigilant and will continue monitoring all the annual National Grid reports and future SSEN news briefings. 
WAPA has not gone away.
yours sincerely, for and on behalf of the core WAPA team

john wills


…. David Gardner of SSE replied on 14 Feb 2018:

From: “Gardner, David” <david.gardner@sse.com>

Subject: NOA Report

Date: 14 February 2018 at 11:54:23 GMT

……

John,

Thanks for your email.

As previously promised, if there is a need to revisit the Beauly-Blackhillock-Kintore project in the future, we are committed to look again at the options and consult closely with the local community, including the representatives of WAPA. [https://www.ssen-transmission.co.uk/news-views/articles/2017/3/ssen-commit-to-review-options-for-beauly-blackhillock-kintore-reinforcement-if-project-returns-in-future-years/]

 We will make sure you are kept fully informed if there are any changes to our current position.

Best wishes

 Dave


Post of March 2017:

After recommendation by NG (National Grid) in Jan 2017 not to proceed, SSE have put their project on hold for the time being. WAPA met SSE representatives on 27 March 2017 to seek clarification. We got some. SSE only evaluate technical need to transmit new power, whereas NG look at the grid right across Great Britain and select only priority projects using financial models. Crucial will be NG’s annual NOA (Network Options Assessment) reports in coming years. If NG then think that Beauly-Keith-Kintore is a priority, SSE could re-start the project. They would likely merely update the conclusions they have already reached. WAPA felt this continues the uncertainty for us all.  Greg Clarke of SSE undertook to write to WAPA to try to allay our concerns. See what you think about his note.  Minutes from the 27 March meeting are being finalised.

See SSE Press Release of 14 March 2017. See also recent WAPA newsletters.

A huge tower on the Beauly / Denny line.
A 400kV tower on the Beauly / Denny line. Note the figure at the base for scale!

BACKGROUND

  1. In 2015 and 2016, SSE planned to erect huge (50m/165ft) pylons from Keith to Kintore through untouched beautiful rural Aberdeenshire

2. This was wrong – see below the unspoiled landscapes and pristine environment that would be affected

3. There were better alternatives

  • Double the planned capacity of the new submarine cable planned from Peterhead to England
  • Bury new power lines while constructing the new dualled A96 between Inverness – Keith – Kintore. Two major infrastructure projects “from A to B” on similar timescale – surely Scotland can get its act together at minimal total cost?
  • Develop the existing pylon corridor from Keith to Kintore. Strengthen it or build within or nearby. This corridor is much shorter, lower cost and goes through lower sensitivity environments than does SSE’s ‘2016 preferred corridor’ according to SSE’s own research.


LANDSCAPES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN AFFECTED

See new film ( click on photo to view )  showing the beautiful untouched area that SSE’s 2016 corridor would vandalise (thanks to Graham at Aeroglen Ltd aeroglenltd@aol.com). Also see the shorter version here.

Beautiful rural landscapes under threat:

Leith Hall
Leith Hall, Kennethmont next to SSE’s 2016 preferred pylon corridor
Unspoiled views from Bennachie
Hiker on Bennachie enjoys immense unspoiled views over SSE’s 2016 preferred pylon corridor

Wildlife, the rare Scottish Wildcat lives here, red squirrels as well.