Scotland business

SSE wins Ofgem backing for less intrusive pylon design plan

new pylon design Image copyright SSE
Image caption SSE has released an image showing how the new look pylons might look againt the Scottish landscape

One of Scotland's leading power suppliers has won Ofgem backing to design less intrusive electricity pylons for mountainous areas.

This is a response to complaints that new grid lines through the Highlands are unsightly and harmful for the environment.

Another Scots company has won £13m funding in the same competition to develop a new grid connector.

It could increase power capacity to and from as many as 25 remote communities.

The new style of power pylon is being designed by SSE, based in Perth and better known through its Scottish Hydro brand.

It has won £6.6m in a competition run by Ofgem, the industry regulator, for working with a design consultancy to find a way of reducing the visual and environmental impact.

The current design has changed little in 90 years.

A T-style pylon has been introduced by National Grid, but it cannot be used where soil is shallow, or at high altitude. Those conditions are common in north and west Scotland, where renewable energy developments have most potential and where new grid connectors are required.

The SSE project intends to try novel materials, alternative insulation for lines and different types of foundations. It claimed costs could be saved from having smaller foundations than current pylons require, requiring less land clearance.

AC-DC

The new type of grid connection for remote areas is being developed by a division of Scottish Power.

It has been granted £13m towards a £15m project in which it will change the link across the Menai Straits between Anglesey and the Welsh mainland.

By converting this from Alternating Current (AC) to medium voltage Direct Current (DC), it believes it should be possible to increase capacity by up to 30%.

It said there were 25 other places in the UK where remote communities could increase the capacity of their AC provision by converting the current to DC. They include several Scottish islands.

This would allow islanders to import power from the grid, to ensure more reliable supply. It would also give them more capacity to transfer renewable energy into the grid.

This could avoid the need for new connectors, according to a Scottish Power source.

However, it is not expected to offer the capacity envisaged for connectors between the Outer Hebrides and Wester Ross, and between the Northern Isles and Caithness.

These will still require high-voltage DC links, similar to one being constructed between North Ayrshire and Merseyside.

'Real benefits for customers'

The grants awarded by Ofgem are among nine winners of this competitive process to help cut industry costs, with projects totalling £63m.

Other projects include development of technology to turn waste into gas, fuelling waste collection trucks using renewable gas, and reducing excess heat in electricity sub-stations.

Maxine Frerk of Ofgem, said: "The nine projects receiving funding today show how new sources and uses of gas together with smarter grids can benefit consumers by making the energy system more secure and cost effective.

"As with all the projects we have funded we expect to see learning from these projects being shared across industry and are pleased to see many of the earlier projects now being rolled out across companies and delivering real benefits for consumers."

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