Ministers said the Beauly-Denny upgrade would unlock Scotland's renewable energy potential and bring a vital boost to the electricity grid.
Scotland is widely acknowledged as one of the most promising sites in the world for the production of renewable energy, but the best sites are remote so getting the electricity generated back to homes and factories requires massive investment in infrastructure. Today's announcement is a huge boost to the renewables industry in the UK.
As the licensed electricity transmission company for the north of Scotland, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd (SHETL), a subsidiary of SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy plc) is required to ensure there is sufficient electricity network capacity for those seeking to generate electricity in that area. The completion of the upgrade should provide less constrained electricity transmission capacity in SHETL's area for around 1,500MW (megawatts) of renewable energy capacity and should release capacity for a further 1,200MW.
The 400,000 volt overhead electricity transmission line upgrade will replace an existing 132,000 volt overhead transmission line between Beauly, near Inverness, and Wharry Burn, near Stirling. The existing line will be dismantled. Scottish Ministers also announced that they have granted Scottish Power Transmission consent, with associated conditions, to install a 400,000 volt overhead line between Wharry Burn and Denny.
Ministers' announcement follows 8 years of work including: 18 months of pre- application public consultations; 10 months of evidence during the largest public inquiry in Scotland since devolution; another 13 months during which the evidence was considered by the inquiry reporter; and, finally, a further 11 months during which Scottish Ministers came to their conclusion.
Colin Hood, Chief Operating Officer of SSE, said, "this project has rightly been subject to a huge degree of scrutiny, but the need to provide more electricity network capacity for indigenous, renewable sources of energy is overwhelming. Upgrading the line will allow us to do that and help Scotland tackle the issues highlighted by the Scottish Climate Change Act, which was passed unanimously by members of the Scottish Parliament in 2009.
And the UK wind industry trade body - British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) - today welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to approve the Beauly-Denny power line as a vitally important step forward in delivering the UK’s 2020 renewable target. BWEA Head of Grid Guy Nicholson said, “this is great news for the UK wind industry, it’s the first step in building a 21st century grid system capable of connecting decentralised green energy throughout the UK”.
BWEA estimates that the upgrade will provide immediate access for 1500 MW of onshore projects that are already in the advanced stages of planning and the first step of 2300MW in delivery of 8,000MW of wind power as other grid reinforcements in the north of Scotland follow on. To deliver the 2020 targets other grid reinforcements are planned in other parts of Britain. “Whilst more grid upgrades will be required to achieve the UK’s carbon reduction targets, this important milestone provides the green light for the development of a decentralised grid network, and allows the UK to continue to develop its world leading offshore wind, wave and tidal energy industries,” Nicholson added.