Foundations in place as offshore work at Beatrice powers on

It’s been a year since SSE made the Final Investment Decision (FID) to build the £2.6bn 588MW Beatrice Offshore Windfarm. Here SSE’s Senior Project Manager Steve Wilson looks back on a busy year of progress and at what lies ahead...

The project milestones are certainly coming thick and fast for Beatrice at the moment. The start of offshore construction is just one of several milestones we’ve hit since the starting gun was fired for one of the largest projects SSE has ever undertaken. We have no fewer than 85 people from SSE in the project team and they can’t be praised highly enough for their performance thus far, to deliver a successful project for our BOWL [Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited] partners.  

We’ve seen the first and last ‘concrete pour’ at Blackhillock substation near Keith in Moray which is the connection point for the offshore wind farm with the electricity grid on land. A 20km underground cable will carry the power generated offshore from a landfall point to the west of Portgordon.
These are the ‘critical arteries’ of this project and it’s essential that they are ready on time. You can generate all the power you like offshore, but if you can’t export it to the grid then it’s no good to anyone.

Likewise, work has also got under way at Wick harbour to convert the historic Thomas Telford buildings into the operational base for the project. These had fallen into a state of some disrepair and it’s a real bonus that the project can restore some of Scotland’s heritage as well as providing renewable energy to hundreds of thousands of homes.

Over 120,000 tonnes of steelwork are currently in fabrication across the UK, Europe and Asia to manufacture the piles and jacket foundations which will support the 7MW wind turbines once they are installed offshore. We are also building two Offshore Transformer Modules (OTM) at fabrication yards in Scotland. These are our compact offshore substations which are designed to collect the power generated from the turbines and export it to land by transforming the power up from 33KV to 220KV.

But it’s the sight of the first of the two massive heavy lift vessels steaming into the Moray Firth that is the real signal the serious work is now underway. Seaway Heavy Lifting are providing the two heavy lifting ships involved, with the 25,000 tonne Stanislav Yudin arriving in April this year to commence the installation of the offshore piles at each of the turbine locations. The 47,000 tonnes Oleg Strashnov will arrive for the first time in August to install the first phase of the offshore jacket foundations for the OTMs and wind turbines.

The offshore construction activities are a 24/7 operation and will continue for the next two years until the final wind turbine is installed during the first half of 2019. Such an operation involves complex marine logistics and planning which is being coordinated on a day to day basis from the project’s construction office in Wick. At the peak of offshore construction there will be over 15 ships and barges working within and around the wind farm site, so effective planning and communication is critical to the project’s success.

So far we’ve hit our targets and it’s been extremely pleasing to see both the rate of progress and how hard the team from SSE has been working to ensure this is maintained. There’s no room for complacency but I’m confident we’ll be ready to deliver our first power from Beatrice in summer 2018. The foundations are being put into place, but plenty of hard work lies ahead.