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A better service — automatically

Modern power supply systems are crucial to island dwellers, and automation is making them more reliable, as Nick Morgan reports.

A Scottish Island is an ideal place to escape dense population and the stresses of modern life elsewhere. At least that’s the common perception.

While this may well be true for many island dwellers, they also rely heavily on the availability of robust communication links. They also depend on security of power supply and affordable heat in what are often exposed locations.

To address this, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is automating its network so that in case of interruption, supplies can be reactivated remotely, removing the need for physical access by technicians.

The work can be undertaken from a control room, a particularly relevant advance at a time when people and organisations are looking to minimise non-essential trips for health reasons.

The innovative and self-adapting automation system detects when, and where, there is a fault on the network, then either chooses the most suitable alternative cable circuit to switch supplies to, or sends a signal to the main control room, where engineers can restore power with the push of a button.

All of this is done in a matter of minutes, significantly reducing disruption to SSEN’s customers and also reducing environmental impact through trips saved.

Network reinforcement forms part of a multimillion pound programme driven by SSEN to ensure Scottish islands can use additional circuits, providing greater choice and the ability to ‘backfeed’ – cause electrical power to flow in the opposite direction from normal – which improves the recovery time of electricity supply.

Our Highlands and Islands region is host to some of the most rural and challenging terrain in the country, said an SSEN spokesperson.

With this challenging terrain come difficult weather conditions, particularly in the winter months.

This year we’re investing more than £8 million to upgrade and strengthen the network across our region to ensure a continued secure supply of electricity to power our communities, including £2 million in innovative automated technology toreduce disruption to our customers when faults occur.

Galbraith has continued to assist SSEN and other clients over the past decade by carrying out the wayleave role, which often makes us the main point of contact between utilities and landownersor third parties with land affected bytheir apparatus.

This role will always remain an important part of the process as networks are continually being updated. Communicating these changes effectively with the communities affected and gaining the appropriate landowners’ and occupiers’ consents is critical.

The need to renew end-of-life equipment and install new services over and under land has increased to cope with modern demands. This, alongside keeping up with changes in consenting processes and observing etiquette in dealing with these, means Galbraith are well placed to advise on all land and consent-related matters for utility companies, developers and independent connection providers alike.