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An uplifting start to SSEN Distribution’s £14.2m Aultbea-Ullapool network upgrade

28 Apr 2022

Expert teams from SSE’s SSEN Distribution business recently delivered over 150 electricity poles by helicopter to a remote part of the Scottish Highlands.

The work saw 162 wooden poles, drums of new overhead line and other essential kit airlifted from a site in Poolewe along a 18km route between Slattadale and Aultbea.

It is part of a £14.2m project to strengthen the area’s electricity infrastructure, making it less susceptible to power cuts, whilst increasing capacity to support the increase in low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and heat pumps.

When full construction gets under way towards the end of May, SSEN will also be:

  • Upgrading 28km of overhead lines from the substation at Aultbea to Dundonnell;
  • Building a new line between Dundonnell and Altnaharrie which will in turn, lead to the installation of a new subsea cable from Alltnaharrie to Ullapool Golf Course across Loch Broom.

Teams will also carry out major works to refurbish the substation at Aultbea and upgrade existing and build new infrastructure in Ullapool.

"The new overhead lines we’re putting in are more robust and resilient, and in conjunction with the work we’ll be doing at our sites on the ground, will provide our engineers with greater flexibility in the ways they can restore customers' supplies should the power ever go off as we’ll be able to reconfigure or "re-route" supplies away from the section where the fault has developed, reducing the length of time that customers are without power."

John Shanks Project Manager, SSEN

Donald MacKinnon, SSEN’s Head of Large Capital Projects, said: "As the drive towards net zero continues apace, the increase in low carbon technologies such as EVs and heat pumps means there will be more demands being placed upon our electricity network.

“Our £14.2m investment to upgrade the infrastructure between Aultbea and Ullapool is an essential part of our commitment to this low-carbon future, enabling the continuing uptake in these new technologies and ensuring that we can continue to to deliver a safe, secure and responsive network for both our existing and future customers across the North West Highlands.”

The work is all part of SSE’s £12.5bn Net Zero Acceleration Programme, which will see the business invest around £7m a day to be spent on critical low-carbon infrastructure needed in net zero transition.

The main construction works on SSEN Distribution’s project are due to start towards the end of May and are scheduled to be completed in March next year.