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33,000 volts under the sea - a deep dive with SSEN Distribution's subsea cable team

13 Feb 2023

SSEN Distribution, as part of SSE plc, delivers power to millions across the North of Scotland and central Southern England.

It is one of the most geographically diverse and unique patches in the UK. A key part of operations is the subsea cable team, based in Perth.

They are responsible for monitoring the submarine cable network that provides power supplies from the mainland to 60 Scottish Islands, including the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Arran and the Orkney Islands.

A great example of the subsea team’s work is their role in the £14.2m upgrade to the wider distribution network around Aultbea and Ullapool – a project which also sees teams on the ground upgrading overhead lines and substation equipment, making the local network stronger and helping facilitate the uptake in domestic heat pumps and EV chargers.

In December the subsea team installed a new cable across Loch Broom, linking Altnaharrie and Ullapool – the work had been years in the planning and, come the big day, the crisp, clear and calm conditions were ideal for carrying out the installation.

Behind the scenes… beneath the waves

We caught up with Lead Project Manager Ally Crawford during the installation works, to learn more what goes on behind the scenes as the team plans a major installation:

Peter McGrath, one of the team’s design engineers, explains more about the cable itself:

Delivering value for consumers

Kevin Galbraith, Project Director in SSEN Distribution’s Large Capital Projects team, explains how this new cable across Loch Broom is helping the company deliver value for customers:

"As all of our investments are funded through consumers’ bills, ensuring value for money is a key driver in everything we do. On this particular project we’ve chosen the subsea route across Loch Broom for two key reasons - the length of cable required is shorter, and so it is more cost-effective when viewed alongside the alternative option of a new land-based line; being shorter also means that it can be completed in a shorter timescale and with less potential impact on the local community."

Kevin Galbraith, Project Director in SSEN Distribution’s Large Capital Projects team

It’s good to talk… and listen

Being a good neighbour in the communities where its teams are working is key for SSEN Distribution, and an important part of this commitment is communication - especially ahead of any major projects.

In next week's follow-up article, we'll learn more about the positive impact the subsea team's programme of stakeholder engagement has had in, and around, Ullapool.