Work underway to heighten power lines over Tyne

Engineers from the National Grid working on raising pylon wires over the river Tyne.
Engineers from the National Grid working on raising pylon wires over the river Tyne.

Engineers are scaling the dizzying heights of two of the country’s tallest pylons to raise the height of a power line to allow ships carrying wind turbine parts to pass safely underneath.

The staff from National Grid are climbing two 390ft towers either side of the River Tyne to change the position of equipment which carries the weight of the wires which span the river crossing.

The work has been six months in the planning with a number of new tools and techniques developed to allow the work to be done quickly without disrupting electricity supplies.

The insulators on the towers are being moved through 90 degrees from a vertical to horizontal position to raise the height of the lowest wires by 4.5 metres, giving the clearance needed for ships to pass below carrying wind turbine components manufactured at the Smulders Projects yard at Wallsend.

The work will ensure that Sky Jackets, the foundations which support wind turbines and sit on the sea bed, are able to reach their destination at offshore wind farms in the Moray Firth and near Aberdeen Bay.

Guy Johnson, overhead line manager, said: “We’ve been in conversation with Smulders and their predecessor, OGN about their need to move increasingly taller components along the river from the Wallsend yard out to sea.

“For operational reasons, the Sky Jackets need to be transported in an upright position and we need to make sure there is a safety clearance between the top of the load and the lowest power line over the river.

“The main challenge has been planning the job in a way which allows our engineers to work to alter the kit on the pylon as safely and as freely as possible at this great height as they would on the ground.

“We’ve developed new techniques and methodology for carrying out the works on these pylons.”

Engineers have had to develop a way of keeping the wires on the lowest cross arms on the pylons under tension to raise the clearance underneath without placing strain on the cross arms or any of the other equipment on the tower.

Guy added: “We are constantly developing our working practices to further increase safety, reduce costs and delivering value for money for electricity bill payers.

“The work on the River Tyne pylons is definitely a job for someone with a head for heights. Our engineers are used to working on pylons, but these are amongst the tallest in the country after ones spanning the River Thames near London and the River Severn at Bristol.

“Our development and delivery of this project has been focussed not only on safety but also on keeping costs down, as these are passed on to bill payers. We’ve managed this through the way we have designed the project as well as through managing construction work efficiently.”

The project is due to be completed by June 30, and the first vessel carrying parts for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm in the Moray Firth will pass below in August.