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Energy / National Grid recommends second transmission link from Shetland to Scottish mainland

Work on the 600MW interconnector at the Scottish mainland side. Photo: SSEN Transmission

THE NATIONAL Grid is recommending that a second HVDC cable is installed to link Shetland to the Scottish mainland.

This would enable offshore wind farms proposed to the east of Shetland to deliver power to the British network.

The National Grid ESO, the electricity system operator for Great Britain, said a second subsea transmission link between Shetland and the mainland has the potential to reduce the reliance on diesel back-up generation and enable further renewable developments in Shetland.

“We can also see the value of locating more strategic demand on the Shetland Islands, which has the potential to contribute to the local economy,” it said.

The National Grid suggests that a second cable could run to the new Blackhillock substation which is located west of Peterhead.

It also recommends offshore wind farms to the east of Shetland are connected to isles by subsea cables.

The recommendations are included in a new report called ‘Beyond 2030: a national blueprint for a decarbonised electricity system in Great Britain’.

A 600MW HVDC cable between Weisdale Voe and Caithness has already been installed and is set to live later this year, linking Shetland to the national grid for the first time.

This will allow the 443MW Viking Energy wind farm – also set to start operating later in 2024 – to export power.

The cable would also allow power to be imported into Shetland, with Lerwick Power Station set to go into standby mode later in 2025.

Earlier this year SSE – which is ultimately behind the 600MW cable and as well as Viking Energy through its renewables arm – also raised the possibility of at least one more transmission link from Shetland.

It said there was potential electricity demand for hydrogen electrolysis in Shetland as well as oil and gas platform electrification.

The National Grid Beyond 2030 report said: “Great Britain has one of the fastest decarbonising electricity grids in the world – we must adapt to accommodate a rapidly changing mix of electricity generation while ensuring a safe and reliable supply of electricity to homes and businesses.”

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The report recommends a set of offshore and onshore network upgrades which total an additional £58 billion of direct investment.

As such it has suggested a design for an upgraded national network which includes significant offshore cabling, and bolstered reinforcement from North East Scotland to North West England.

The report added: “Network infrastructure must be developed in the right place, at the right time, while also considering its impact on communities and the environment.”

SSEN Transmission has welcomed the report, and said the suggested projects for the north of Scotland would represent a potential estimated investment of more than £5 billion for the company.

It said the plan confirms the need for these projects – including a possible second Shetland link – to “proceed now for delivery by 2035”.

“Progression of these investments will require an appropriate regulatory framework, including early confirmation that SSEN Transmission will be the delivery body, alongside securing all planning and regulatory approvals,” SSEN Transmission said.

“They will also be subject to extensive public consultation to help inform the development of these new and upgraded network infrastructure requirements.”

At the moment there is 2.8GW of proposed offshore wind development to the east of Shetland.

This comes in addition to three proposed new onshore wind farms in Shetland – Energy Isles, Beaw Field and Mossy Hill, which are all being developed by Statkraft and have a combined total capacity of around 240MW.

In addition to Lerwick Power Station going into standby mode in 2025, there are also plans for a 70MW battery storage system in the town to keep Shetland’s lights on if the power station needs to come back into full operation in the event of an outage on the HVDC cable.

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