Work has begun on a major step in Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’ (SSEN) £30million project to replace one of the two submarine electricity distribution cables connecting Orkney to mainland Scotland.

Specialist marine vessels, the Normand Clipper and the Global Symphony, have been working between Murkle Bay, near Thurso and Rackwick Bay on the island of Hoy to successfully install and bury the new subsea cable.

Working in partnership with Principal Contractor, McGowan Environmental Engineering Ltd, who are based in Aviemore, Orkney firms Pentland Ferries and storage and distribution specialists McAdie and Reeve, SSEN has now reached a major milestone in the project by commencing land-based works on Hoy to replace existing overhead power lines at Rackwick with underground cable.

To enable excavation works along the 7km route for the new cable, a bulk cargo vessel was chartered to deliver 5,000 tonnes of high specification sand to Lyness harbour, with almost 30 large items of equipment and vehicles shipped from Gills Bay to Lyness under special charter on Pentland Ferries’ Pentalina vessel.

Mark Rough, Director of Customer Operations at SSEN, said: “The Pentland Firth East project is one of the single biggest standalone projects for our teams, with the £30m investment critical to ensuring long-term security of supply to the islands.

“We’re pleased the project is progressing well, with cable installation and burial operations complete, and our land cable works well under way. We’re committed to providing opportunities for the local supply chain as we carry out these works, so it’s great to see our contract partners making best use of the local resources available.”

Derek Mackay, Director, McGowan Environmental Engineering, added: “We’re delighted to be working with SSEN to deliver this significant programme of investment for the islands. In support of the local community, we are working with local suppliers to assist with the delivery of the project, including Pentland Ferries to mobilise plant and equipment and McAdie and Reeve to stockpile and distribute the specialist sand which will surround the new underground cable.

“For the duration of the project, we’ve leased the Hoy Centre and Rackwick Hostel to base our teams and operations. We’d like to reassure everyone our employees continue to adhere to social distancing measures and Government guidance to protect the safety of the local community as we work.”

Over the coming weeks, various vessels will be carrying out operations in the Pentland Firth as part of this major cable installation project, including laying rock bags on sections of the cable and installing cable protection near the shore.

SSEN remains on track to complete all works by November 2020.