SSEN identify new site for power converter station

SSEN held local consultation meetings, but their initially proposed site proved controversial.SSEN held local consultation meetings, but their initially proposed site proved controversial.
SSEN held local consultation meetings, but their initially proposed site proved controversial.
​An alternative site on Arnish moor has been identified by SSEN Transmission to locate the high voltage converter station required for the interconnector between Lewis and the mainland.

Likely to be much less controversial than the previously mooted Marybank site, the new proposal will bring a massive boost to Macaulay College - which serves people with additional support needs - as the site straddles land owned by both Stornoway Trust and Macaulay Farm.

The College says the deal will ensure that the funding package required for its development plans to replace dilapidated buildings and expand services can be completed.

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The proposed new site follows a reassessment of options which “has sought to minimise community and landscape impacts throughout the development and operation of the project, whilst seeking to balance key environmental, technical and construction constraints”.

Ongoing discussions with the Stornoway Trust and owners of Macaulay Farm have led to proposals to acquire the land needed for development. Designs are being developed to minimise impact on surrounding properties and Macaulay College.

In a statement to the Gazette, SSEN Transmission said that “to demonstrate commitment to provide a lasting legacy to Western Isles communities” they have “pledged to support Macaulay College with its plans to undertake essential building refurbishment and extension works that will create additional spaces at the college and enhance the range of activities on offer to students”.

SSEN Transmission will also “continue to work closely with Stornoway Trust to ensure the long awaited HVDC Connector and associated infrastructure works deliver real benefit to communities on Lewis and the Western Isles. This will include looking at environmental enhancement opportunities in the wider area”.

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When concluded, the land agreements with Stornoway Trust and Macaulay Farm will enable SSEN Transmission to start an Environmental Impact Assessment that will form a key part of the planning application for the site.

Further public consultation will take place with public events planned for September and November.

Colin Bell, lead project manager for SSEN Transmission, said: “The decision to seek an alternative location was taken in direct response to feedback from the local community, demonstrating the value of our consultation process. We will continue to listen and work constructively with landowner groups, residents and stakeholders as we develop the project.

“Identification of this site also allows us to support two local organisations which are already delivering benefits to the local community. We are delighted that this site supports the Stornoway Trust as a community landowner, while enabling connection for other developments that align with the Trust's aim to deliver significant economic benefits to the area.

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“We are also thrilled to be able to support Macaulay College with the extension of their facilities and services to build on the invaluable work the college already provides. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with both organisations throughout the lifetime of the project.

“The next step is further consultation with the community and wider stakeholders to inform the planning and development of the project, which continues to have widespread local support reflecting its importance to the development of renewable energy in and around the Western Isles, and the significant economic and job opportunities our investment will unlock.”

Rebecca Lindsay, director at Macaulay College, said: “We feel very fortunate to have SSEN Transmission as our new neighbours. The support they have shown Macaulay College will be transformational to the services we can provide here on the Farm.

“We have been successful in raising most of the funds required to replace our dilapidated building and double our current capacity, but the funding from SSEN Transmission ensures the project will be completed.

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“With SSEN Transmission’s incredible support we will also be able to develop our arts, sports and music programmes, delivering physical and mental benefits to our students who will be able to enjoy wonderful new facilities.”

Stornoway Trust factor, Iain Maciver, from the Stornoway Trust, hoped this would now allow SSEN “to develop their chosen location in line with an already tight delivery schedule”.

He said: “Our argument for a subsea link started over a decade ago. We now hope that a consented converter station will clear the way for a cable and enable our onshore developers to progress work on projects with the capacity to provide our community with transformational revenue streams and employment opportunities by the 2030 delivery date.”

The Western Isles HVDC Link will allow 1.8GW of renewable power to connect to the grid. The long-awaited project is part of SSEN Transmission’s Accelerated Strategic Transmission Investment programme, which feeds into a wider £20 billion package of work to upgrade the north of Scotland transmission network.