By Mark Williamson Group Business Correspondent

SCOTTISH Hydroelectric owner SSE has passed a milestone in a project to

harness the potential to generate renewable energy in the Shetland area by

awarding contracts to build a subsea transmission link between the islands

and the mainland.

The energy giant said the 160-mile high voltage link will support the

transition to net zero and deliver substantial socio-economic and

environmental benefits.

It reckons work on the link will help fuel the recovery from the downturn

triggered by the coronavirus.

However, there may be disappointment that Perth-based SSE has chosen firms

based overseas to lead work on the £630 million link.

SSE said the appointment of the four main contractors for the Shetland HVDC

link was the final milestone for a project which will allow energy

generated in the Shetland area to be supplied to the national grid.

The project will involve building substations in Shetland and Caithness

that will be connected by a subsea cable. SSE described these as “critical

national infrastructure assets”.

The company said: “The Shetland HVDC link will deliver substantial

socio-economic and environmental benefits to Shetland’s, Scotland’s and the

UK’s economy, supporting hundreds of skilled jobs in the process as part of

the green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”

At its peak, in the summer of 2022, the project is expected to employ

almost 250 people. The link is expected to become operational in July 2024.

The link has generated controversy.

Sector regulator Ofgem did not approve SSE’s original proposal to build the

link because it was not sure there would be enough power generated in the

Shetland area to justify the investment required to install the link. The

costs will be paid by consumers through their bills.

In April Ofgem approved the project subject to being satisfied that SSE

would proceed with plans to build the giant Viking windfarm in Shetland.

In June SSE gave the green light to the Viking project. Proposals for the

103-turbine windfarm have been criticised by locals on environmental grounds.

SSE appointed Siemens and BAM to lead on the substation work. NKT will

manufacture and install the subsea cable. The Hitachi ABB Power Grids

venture will commission the system.

A spokesperson said SSE was extremely confident the project would deliver

benefits at a local and national level.

The spokesperson noted that local sub-contractors would be expected to win

work on the link. It should provide substantial indirect benefits, such as

hotel nights and spending on other local services.

SSE sparked a furore in June when it revealed the turbines for the Seagreen

windfarm off the Angus coast will be made on the Isle of Wight.

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