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A community group on the edge of Stornoway has hit out at plans for a HVDC converter station and AC substation which form part of the plans to link the Islands to the mainland with a new high-voltage cable capable of exporting windfarm power to the rest of Great Britain. 

The Marybank & Maryhill Community Association say they are, following the proposal by SSEN to site a HVDC converter station and AC substation "on our doorstep, totally opposed to this site selection."

This comes only days before SSEN Transmission host a consultation event on Wednesday 8 November, between 3pm and 7pm at the Cabarfeidh Hotel, on Perceval South Road, Stornoway.

The association say that: "During the initial consultation (April 2023), we were shocked to learn that this site would have a footprint of 600 metres by 300 metres and a height of 28 metres and be less than 600 metres from some houses in the community. 

"The Community Association met with SSEN in July and consequently the proposed site has been moved slightly further away from most houses but far closer to others.

:"We believe this is wrong.  A construction this size should not be sited anywhere near houses.  Never mind the disturbance and pollution during the construction phase, but the background noise and potential health risks post construction.  

"There may be a few jobs created during construction but as we were informed by SSEN, there will be zero local employment post construction.

"As a community we cannot understand with the many miles of moorland at their disposal, SSEN are insisting on constructing this megabuilding on the doorstep of any residential area."

SSEN have hit back at other criticism of their publicity for the meeting.  They say there was a variety of information provided including a mail drop of a two-sided postcard to 5,000+ homes and businesses. There was also an:

  • Email sent to Ward Councillors
  • Email sent to Community Councils
  • Email sent to Maryhill and Marybank Community Association
  • Email sent to all member of the public who registered their contact details at any previous events
  • Email sent to everyone who has signed up online for project updates

In a media release sent out yesterday afternoon (Friday November 3) SSEN Transmission announced they were holding a public event next week to consult on the energy transmission infrastructure required on Lewis, as part of the Western Isles Connection Project – a crucial piece of work that will help to enable the connection of onshore and offshore wind in and around the Western Isles and play a critical role in the fight against climate change and securing the country’s future energy independence. 

In July 2022, the Electricity System Operator, National Grid ESO, published the ‘Pathway to 2030’, confirming the requirement for a 1.8GW HVDC subsea link from the Western Isles to the north of Scotland mainland. This forms part of a GB-wide programme of network upgrades which are required to help meet 2030 offshore wind targets.

In December 2022, the GB energy regulator, Ofgem, approved the need for the Western Isles link as part of its Accelerated Strategic Transmission Investment (ASTI) Framework decision, a major step forward in providing the much needed and long-awaited certainty required to unlock the vast renewable energy potential of the Western Isles.

At the public event, SSEN Transmission will be carrying out a third set of public engagements on the proposed Lewis HVDC converter station and substation site, providing an update on the site selection process and confirm the company’s selected site. 
Consultation on the underground cable from the HVDC converter station to Arnish Point will also take place. SSEN Transmission have identified a cable route and are seeking feedback from local stakeholders on the route and any additional external factors that need to be considered.

Community Liaison Manager, Lisa Marchi, said: 
“It’s great to see the Western Isles link progressing, after more than a decade of working closely with the local community, customers and stakeholders on this nationally significant project.

“As planning progresses, we’re now ready to share an update on the selected site for the HVDC Converter Station on Lewis and we’re seeking feedback on the proposed underground cable from the converter station to the landfall site at Arnish Point."

An HVDC converter station (or simply converter station) is a specialised type of substation which forms the terminal equipment for a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line. It converts direct current to alternating current or the reverse.

SSEN Transmission will be hosting the consultation event on Wednesday 8 November, between 3pm and 7pm at the Cabarfeidh Hotel, Manor Park, Perceval Road, Stornoway, HS1 2EU.