It was announced this week that Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is to carry out over £200 million worth of upgrades to the electricity transmission network between Argyll & Bute and North Ayrshire. Much of the investment will be directed towards a new subsea link between Kintyre and Hunterston.
The announcement was made after SSE’s plans received approval from industry regulator Ofgem. However, spokespeople for SSE have revealed that pre-construction work on the network upgrade has already commenced. The project is estimated to be completed by 2016.
The news is significant for both the local and the renewables sector. 150 Megawatts of capacity will be devoted to renewable energy developments. Renewable energy is an industry which has long been considered to have significant potential for economic growth within Argyll & Bute. However, some renewable energy developments in the area have been constrained by a lack of available grid capacity. Whilst investment in the area’s transmission has long been mooted now both local businesses and renewable energy developers can now proceed with certainty.
The network upgrade is good news for other reasons as well. Parts of both Argyll & Bute and North Ayrshire suffered from prolonged power outages earlier this year due to extreme weather conditions. The work to be carried out by SSE will serve to increase the local grids resiliance and make such events far less likely in the future.
SSE’s Director of Transmission, David Gardner commented:
“The announcement from Ofgem signals another significant step in our plans to reinforce the transmission infrastructure throughout Scotland.
“Along with completion of key projects within our approved budget of £1.4bn, this project demonstrates that we are gaining momentum on our capital expenditure programme which will connect significant amounts of renewable energy to the grid; contributing to energy security, economic growth and decarbonisation of electricity generation.”
The work to be carried out in Kintyre is only one small part of the £5 billion investment SSE intends to make into Scotland’s energy transmission network. Such levels of investment will provide a huge boost to Scotland’s renewable energy industry. There are currently developments across the country which are being delayed by a lack of available grid capacity.
However, in some cases, smaller renewable energy projects such as the medium scale wind developments carried forward by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) can make use of alternative solutions to a lack of grid capacity.
Ofgem’s approval of this grid upgrade work is the first to be issued under their new Strategic Wider Works (SWW) programme. SWW was introduced to consider funding for specific major transmission projects on a case by case basis in a timely fashion. A large number of transmission network uprgade programmes are being considered. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) and within the wider renewable energy industry look forward to further approvals.