Flying into Pole Position: SSEN Uses Helicopter to Lift Composite Poles

April 4, 2018
The helicopter allowed the construction team to overcome the rugged terrain while minimizing disturbance to the environment

Erickson Inc. has contracted with Balfour Beatty to provide helicopter service to build a transmission line for Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSE). The new line will connect renewable energy from the Dorenell Wind Farm to a transmission network at Blackhillock, Scotland, between Aberdeen and Inverness.  The project provides new sources of electricity with minimal impact on the land environment and is the first of its kind for Erickson in Europe. 

Project Scope

One hundred forty new composite poles that will connect the farm and substation have now been successfully installed with the help of a Erickson's specialist helicopter.

This innovative technology, which uses a durable composite polymer instead of the traditional timber, is the first of its kind to be installed on the GB transmission network, and has been specially adapted to meet the unique terrain and environment of the north east of Scotland.

The use of the specialist Erickson S-64 Air Crane helicopter, which can hold up to a 10-ton load, allowed the construction team to overcome the rugged terrain while minimizing disturbance to the environment and community.

Paul Higginbotham, Lead Project Manager at SSEN, said, “This is a new way of delivering electricity in Scotland and I am proud that we are the first transmission network owner to use composite poles in the UK. The use of composite materials means they have a stronger strength/weight ratio than the traditional wood pole alternative.  They are also less visually intrusive than steel lattice towers. We shipped in a S64-F Air Crane from the USA to lift and install the poles. This innovative installation method meant that we did not require access tracks for the erection process and were able to install the poles quickly in locations that would have been difficult to access by crane.”

SSEN has engaged Balfour Beatty as the principal contractor to supply, install and connect the 140 composite poles that will link Dorenell Wind Farm to SSEN’s substation at Blackhillock, near Keith.

Composite poles are environmentally friendly and require no preservatives. They eliminate the need to harvest trees, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carbon consumption, and the degradation of ecosystems. In addition, composite poles demonstrate a longer lifespan and can be repurposed or recycled at the end of their useful life.

Composite structures are already being used successfully in Canada, the USA, Scandinavia and Ireland.

SSEN, operating under licence as Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission plc is responsible for maintaining and investing in the electricity network in the north of Scotland.

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