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Energy / Plans for second subsea HVDC cable well underway as contractors lined up

At 1.8GW the second planned link would have three times the capacity of the first subsea cable

PLANS for a proposed second HVDC subsea electricity cable between Shetland and the Scottish mainland appear to be progressing at pace after developer SSEN Transmission announced it has selected preferred bidders for the work.

Sumitomo Electric Industries and its subsea cable installation partner Van Oord Offshore Wind UK, which haved formed a consortium, have been selected for what is being called the “Shetland 2” project.

A key driver for the proposed link – which could be 1.8GW in capacity – is providing an export route for offshore wind farms which are mooted for the east of Shetland.

The need for a second HVDC link from Shetland to the main GB transmission system was confirmed by the independent electricity system operator National Grid ESO as part of its latest nationwide strategic network plan Beyond 2030.

Work is nearly finished on Shetland’s first 600MW subsea HVDC link, which runs between Weisdale Voe and Caithness and will connect the isles of the national grid for the first time at a cost of around £660 million – and allow the Viking Energy wind farm to export power.

Both the 260km cable and 443MW wind farm are expected to go live later this year.

As well as helping enable the connection of three ScotWind offshore wind farm sites adjacent to Shetland, which have a combined generating capacity of up to 2.8GW, SSEN Transmission said Shetland 2 will also “support decarbonisation and energy security ambitions, alongside helping further secure Shetland’s future electricity needs”.

As well as the requirement for a second HVDC subsea link, which is expected to make landfall on the Moray coast before connecting to the main transmission network, the establishment of a new onshore hub in Shetland is also required.

This hub will enable the connection of those ScotWind sites adjacent to Shetland before onward transmission via the new HVDC link.

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SSEN Transmission plan to connect this new hub to Shetland’s existing electricity network, providing additional network resilience to help further secure Shetland’s future electricity needs.

These infrastructure requirements, which SSEN said will be subject to public consultation, are at the very early stages of development and further details will be set out in due course, the company said.

Earlier this year SSEN – 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.

Prospect of more subsea links to mainland raised as SSE looks to the future

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

With Shetland 2 the anchor project supporting and enabling Sumitomo Electric Industries investment in a new cable manufacturing facility at Nigg, the announcement is described as a “hugely significant milestone” in delivering hundreds of new highly skilled supply chain jobs in the Scottish Highlands.

SSEN Transmission managing director Rob McDonald said: “Sumitomo’s investment in a new cable manufacturing facility in Nigg will help deliver a homegrown supply chain to help support our energy security and net zero infrastructure requirements.”

He said SSEN expects to conclude contractual negotiations with the Sumitomo Electric Van Oord Consortium in the coming week and months and continue “constructive engagement with Ofgem, the UK and Scottish governments, and wider stakeholders” to establish the regulatory framework for Shetland 2.

Sandy Mactaggart, director of offshore delivery at SSEN Transmission, said Shetland 2 represents “another major investment in the electricity transmission infrastructure required to help meet and further secure Shetland’s future electricity needs”.

He said Shetland 2 will also “support significant economic and employment opportunities for the people of Shetland and local businesses”.

“Following the successful delivery to date of the first Shetland HVDC link, we look forward to building on the positive relationships we have established with the local community, Shetland Island Council, elected members and businesses through the development and delivery of Shetland 2 and all associated onshore infrastructure requirements,” Mactaggart said.

Osamu Inoue, President of Sumitomo Electric Group, said transmission cables are “key essential infrastructures to make so called energy transition to renewables into reality”.

Meanwhile government representatives have also had their say on the news.

The Scottish Government’s energy secretary Màiri McAllan said: “Scotland is fast becoming a renewable energy powerhouse, providing opportunities to grow our economy and create jobs while protecting the environment.

“The Scottish Government is allocating up to £500 million to anchor the offshore wind supply-chain in Scotland, ensuring our workforce, businesses and communities all benefit from the offshore renewables revolution.”

UK Government energy security and net zero minister Justin Tomlinson said: “A second undersea cable connecting Shetland to the Scottish mainland will add 1.8GW of clean wind-generated power to our grid.”

Contractual negotiations with Sumitomo Electric Van Oord Consortium (SVOC) will continue in advance of entering into capacity reservation agreements and thereafter, contract award status for the Shetland 2 scheme later this year.

In parallel, SSEN Transmission awaits the GB energy regulator Ofgem concluding the development of the regulatory framework for Shetland 2 and other ‘Beyond 2030’ investments.

When Shetland is connected to the national grid via the first cable, the diesel fired Lerwick Power Station will go into standby mode – which is expected to be in November 2025.

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