Update on West Challow’s Electricity Supply

Eoin and Jean Lees have sent the following update:

A meeting was held in West Challow on 8 September of Paul Barrow (District Councillor VWH), Ian Stern (Parish Councillor West Challow), Eoin and Jean Lees with Craig Goulding (Asset Manager of SSEN for all the Ridgeway area).  We thought it timely to update the village on our electricity supply as this was the first face to face, positive meeting that we have had with SSEN.

So far SSEN has stabilised the present West Challow distribution system by replacing the original 200kVA transformer with a temporary 315kVA unit and some rebalancing of the village distribution between the circuits that distribute electricity round the village.

For the future needs of the village, the following was agreed and later confirmed in an email from Craig Goulding on 10th October:

  • SSEN will repeat the early 2021 monitoring exercise of measuring the actual electricity usage on the 3 phases/wires from the 315 kVA transformer supplying electricity to the village
  • SSEN will replace the temporary 315kVA transformer which they agreed is on the limit regarding capacity given the foreseen conversion from the prevalent oil-fired to electrically driven heating and the adoption of EVs
  • This 315kVA will be replaced with a single 500 kVA transformer substation
  • The 500 kVA will be a standard power transformer for SSEN; it will be ground mounted with a wall height of ~6 feet and an apex sloping roof with peak height of 3 metres; screening by the existing vegetation should camouflage the substation
  • The 500 kVA transformer (if balanced between the 3 phases/wires) will allow a total of 652 amps supply to the village compared to the present 410 amps and the 260 amps in 2018
  • During a walk round the village, Craig confirmed that undergrounding of the high voltage lines on Manor Farm land would not be a technical problem. Craig also confirmed that with a 6 month lead time for the transformer, the whole project start is likely to be about a year away
  • SSEN had submitted a revised offer to the landlord for undergrounding power lines

On 11 October, we had a village WhatsApp from the land owner David Maundrell with the good news that agreement with SSEN on undergrounding of power lines had been reached.

All of the above is very encouraging although some important issues still remain:

  •  In Silver Lane, it was noticed that for properties north of Orchard Gardens, their telephone lines and low voltage electricity cables are mounted mostly on the same wooden pole. Craig said that, for safety reasons, it was not current practice to share poles with BT Open Reach. So by undergrounding these low voltage cables (230 volt), a problem remains as to how the telephone lines can still be connected to these properties
  • There is less clarity around sufficient capacity and the demand increase that would arise from the two recent and any future planning applications; SSEN’s repeat monitoring exercise should help here
  • Given the increasing demand pressure on the network and the fact that not all residents inform SSEN of plans for installing heat pumps and EV chargers, West Challow Parish Council believes that the Vale of White Horse planning process should formally check with SSEN for all new build planning applications, i.e. there should not be a threshold for the number of new builds on a development before checking and that SSEN should make the required checks to ensure capacity is available for organic and new build driven demand growth before replying.

After many years of negotiation, at last SSEN are responding positively with a ground mounted substation with increased capacity.  We were aware that the owners of the properties opposite any new substation were concerned about any potential visual impact and we would like to thank David Maundrell for ensuring that during the recent hedge trimming along the east side of Silver Lane, he retained the necessary camouflage for the new ground mounted transformer.