Providing power to one of most remote locations in England
Wasdale is home to Wastwater – England’s deepest lake, and Scafell Pike – its highest peak. It’s the subject of the Lake District National Park logo, and the view from Wastwater was voted Britain’s Favourite View as part of an ITV series in 2007.
Wasdale Head, a small hamlet of just 11 properties, was first connected to the mains electricity network in 1977 by our predecessors Norweb (North West Electricity Board) using a cable laid on the bed of Wastwater.
A fault on that underwater cable caused a power cut to the properties, but we provided generators to all customers within a few hours to restore power – and the planning process of how to permanently restore mains power began.
The unique location of Wasdale Head has made this a hugely technical and complicated engineering challenge. Wastwater itself is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as are the scree slopes to the east and an area of land to the west of the lake. This means that full ecological reports and thorough planning was essential so as not to disrupt the local flora and fauna.
There were three engineering options to restore mains supplies: overhead lines, underground cable or underwater cable.
The quickest, easiest, most cost-effective and practical option would have been to put up overhead lines – but clearly, in an area of such beauty this was not a realistic option.
Following a residents meeting in January, we began putting into action plans for an underground solution. After much consultation with residents and businesses, National Trust, Natural England and Cumbria County Council, we started the work. We brought a large mobile drilling rig to the site in March to drill underground boreholes alongside the single-track road running alongside Wastwater where the cables could then be laid.
Unfortunately, rather than finding solid rock – as we had done in our trial holes – we found a mix of rock and soil which fragmented as the drill entered and caused the boreholes to collapse.
After several attempts in different locations, we were forced to abort the underground plan to pursue the final option of replacing the cable in Wastwater.
We laid 1.6km of custom-made cable under Wastwater in one continuous length then jointed it to other cables either side. The cable weighs 19 tonnes and even just getting it to site was quite a challenge. We used specialist contractors to move the cable along the winding single-track path into position by the side of the lake.
Within three weeks of the cable arriving on site we were ready for the official switch on. We worked hard to keep residents and businesses up to date with the project, and planned everything to cause minimum disruption.
No matter where you live in the North West, from the centre of Manchester to Wasdale Head, we'll do everything we can to keep you connected and keep your lights on for years to come.
2016 power upgrade
In July 2016 we are investing more than £500,000 to proactively upgrade the remaining network in Wasdale to help prevent any further unexpected power outages.
Jane Fleetwood, operations manager for Electricity North West, who was involved in the job in 2012 said: “This was a really tough job back in 2012 due to the incredibly remote location and sensitive area. The lake itself is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest as is a large area of the scree slopes alongside.
“The section of cable that we relaid in the lakebed in 2012 has had no problems whatsoever, but the time is now right to proactively replace other sections of cable, to help prevent faults in future. The local community were very patient while we worked out the best solution for the area then and we’ll be working closely with them too to minimise disruption during the work to help keep the lights on for years to come.”
The two-phased project will replace 560m of cable under the lakeshore road, starting on the 18th July, and 3km of cable under Wastwater, starting in October.
During the works all of the local businesses will remain open as normal. Traffic maybe stopped briefly to allow engineers to safely unload equipment.
For more information please click here.
19-tonne reel of specially-made cable arrives onsite to secure
the supply of mains electricity to Wasdale Head, Cumbria.
After successful completion of the project we look back on the full story.