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Energy / New power lines through central mainland could have ‘significant effect’ on landscape

SSEN Transmission said the proposed overhead line route has been “carefully designed to try and minimise impacts on the local landscape and community”

Proposed overhead lines at the Veensgarth junction with the A970. Image: SSEN-Transmission

PROPOSED new overheard power lines which would run through the central mainland is likely to have a “significant effect” on the character of the local landscape, planning documents have acknowledged.

There is also potential for “significant adverse visual effects” on some properties on the south side of the Hill of Girlsta.

The proposed power lines, called “Trident H poles”, would reach a height of between 11m and 17m, which is larger than existing electricity poles in Shetland.

For the most part it would be two poles running in parallel, meaning the total amount of line being proposed is around 23km.

They would run between the outskirts of Lerwick to Kergord as part of a project to connect wind farms to the network and allow Shetland’s needs to be met by renewable energy.

It generally follows the route of the A970, and SSE said the alignment has been picked to “mitigate potential impacts on properties and the environment”.

Planning documents though say it would “adversely affect the overall visual amenity experienced by road users and has the potential to give rise to a significant effect”.

Construction is anticipated to start in 2023 before being completed in 2025.

It has already provoked concern from the Tingwall, Whiteness and Weisdale Community Council, which would prefer to see the cables buried underground – but this would cost the developer significantly more.

More overhead lines are proposed between Kergord and north of Lunnasting.

SSE’s renewables connections project will provide a new 132kV transmission network in Shetland.

It aims to connect the consented Mossy Hill (near Lerwick) and Beaw Field (Yell) wind farms.

It would also cater for the proposed Energy Isles development in Yell, but this does not yet have planning consent.

They would be linked to a new substation and HVDC converter station at Kergord, which is currently under construction ahead of the Viking Energy wind farm going live in 2024.

A new grid supply point is also being proposed opposite Lerwick Power Station – which will go into standby mode in 2024 – to allow local demand to be supplied by wind power.

An electricity switching station is also planned for Yell, while more overground, underground and subsea cabling is also mooted for other parts of Shetland.

The route for cabling has been gone through a thorough process which balances cost, technical and environmental considerations.

At this stage SSE is seeking advice on whether an environmental impact assessment is needed for the overhead lines between the outskirts of Lerwick and Kergord.

It believes there is an “unlikely potential” for significant effects on protected species and habitats during construction and operation.

The developer also said in its planning documents that there is the potential for “significant effects” to the Loch of Girlsta scheduled monument.

A spokesperson for SSEN Transmission said: “The overhead line from Kergord to Gremista Grid Supply Point (GSP) is critical to support Shetland’s future security of supply, connecting Shetland to the GB transmission system for the first time and supporting the connection of renewable energy.

“The proposed overhead line route has been carefully designed to try and minimise impacts on the local landscape and community and we continue to assess feedback provided through our recent public consultation as we further refine our proposals.

“We would like to thank the local community for their engagement to date and we look forward to continued constructive engagement as we take forward our plans to help secure Shetland’s future energy needs.”