UK Power Networks is investing £11.5 million in the electricity grid near Heathfield in East Sussex to future-proof the power network for thousands of residents.
The company, which delivers electricity supplies to 8.5 million households and businesses across the South East, London and East of England, is constructing a new grid substation next to the existing substation in Broad Oak while protecting native dormice.
As part of the project, two new 60-megawatt, 60-tonne transformers have been delivered to the site. Once energised, these will receive power at 132,000 volts and step down to 33,000 volts to distribute to substations and eventually local homes and businesses.
The investment will more than double the capacity of the site to 78 megawatts to maintain reliable electricity supplies into the future, including as more low-carbon technologies connect to the electricity network.
A new 33,000-volt switchboard is also under construction, with new circuit breakers to enable control, protection and disconnection of the equipment, keeping power supplies safe and resilient.
The new switchboard in Broad Oak will use environmentally friendly technology as part of the company’s commitment to reducing the use of the greenhouse gas sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
Before work started at the substation, which serves 22,800 properties, ecology surveys were carried out to check for all protected species, which identified that dormice were present. This led to the creation of an enriched dormice habitat on surrounding land, which included planting native trees and shrubs, and installing nest boxes for dormice.
Stephen Mortimer, project manager at UK Power Networks, said: “The new electricity equipment at Broad Oak will increase the resilience of electricity supplies, and deliver long-term network reliability and capacity benefits for thousands of homes and businesses across a wide area.
“We’ve taken care at this site to carry out environmental surveys and follow our expert’s recommendations to ensure we protect the dormice habitat in this area while investing to increase the resilience of power supplies for homes and businesses across our networks.”
Emma Mundy, from environmental consultancy ADAS, added: “The works have been undertaken under a Natural England licence for hazel dormice, with supervision provided at all key stages of the works and UK Power Networks worked closely with us to support this process.
“Nest boxes and planting have been undertaken to enhance the woodland for dormice, with monitoring surveys also being carried out to check on the local population of dormice.”
Work to install and connect the new electrical equipment will continue throughout this year. UK Power Networks is investing £600 million this year to maintain safe and reliable power supplies for homes and businesses across the South East, London and East of England. The company’s network of cables, substations and power lines distributes power supplies to a population of about 20 million people.