One campaigner opposing the move argues it will ruin the local landscape, impact on tourism, and could have health implications — and says the origin of the move is the surge in windfarms.
Not wishing to be identified, the chartered electrical engineer with a background in high-voltage distribution said: “At Gretna there’s a 400,000 volt overhead line running down the M74.
“That’s the sort of line that will stretch throughout the region.
“It’s a monstrosity.”
However, his concerns have been contested by SP Energy Networks, who say the new 400kV towers will be an average 46m tall — not the 65m being claimed.
And while they say ‘important and serious’ health concerns around electro-magnetic fields (EMF) have been investigated in depth over the last 30 years, ‘the balance of scientific evidence to date suggests that EMFs do not cause disease’.
A 2013 document on the National Grid website describes a plan for ‘Dumfries and Galloway Reinforcement’, which includes, ‘Investigate construction of a new overhead line to serve the main demand blocks, existing generation portfolios and facilitate the connection of new renewable generation in the Dumfries and Galloway area’.
But SP Energy Networks reject suggestions the network is needed to serve windfarms which public and politicians might not have supported had they known about the need to expand the infrastructure.
Noting some of the region’s infrastructure dates back to the 1930s, a spokesman for the firm said: “This is not a proposal for a windfarm. It is about improving ageing infrastructure and providing extra capacity for existing and potential future developments in generation, whatever they may be.”
He added: “This upgrade is not related to any specific renewable energy projects, or any specific renewable energy developer.”
SP Energy Networks have also rejected suggestions of a beneficial arrangement with Scottish Power Renewables and Scottish Power Transmission, leading to Scottish Government funding.
Putting the cost at ‘multiple millions of pounds’, SP Energy Networks will pay for the upgrades themselves.