High tension surrounding the Stevin project
On Tuesday, November 21, the authorities and executives from Elia inaugurated the new Stevin high-voltage line, designed to upgrade the electricity grid between Zomergem and Zeebrugge. The specialists from ENGIE Fabricom who took charge of installing the required pylons and cables had to adapt to a number of constraints, even resorting to the use of helicopters to complete their task.
Over the past two years, if you live in the Eeklo region, you have probably seen helicopters circling extremely close to electric pylons more than 100 metres up. Some described these exploits as “impressive”, others as “daring”. Certainly, this was the method ENGIE Fabricom’s teams used to make sure that electrical cables were connected between the pylons in accordance with safety requirements, bearing in mind the high density of roads and homes between Eeklo and Zomergem.
Meeting grid requirements
The Stevin project meets four essential requirements of the Belgian grid:
- it brings power generated by offshore wind farms to the mainland and transmits it to the country’s interior;
- it establishes an international submarine connection with the United Kingdom;
- it improves the supply of electricity to the western part of Belgium
- and lastly it connects other renewable coastal generating facilities to the grid.
A three-phase project
The work was broken down into three parts for our teams:
- Part 1: Laying a double 380-kV high-voltage line
- Part 2: Constructing three high-voltage substations
- Part 3: Dismantling the existing 150-kV lines and laying them underground.
ENGIE Fabricom’s project manager, Denis Janssens-Petit, explained: “Helicopter operations are spectacular, but can also entail risks. So such work is actually preceded by adequate preparations and careful reconnaissance of the locations involved. The weather is always a crucial factor, too. The emergency services are informed of our operations, and the pilots and co-pilots of the helicopter remain in radio contact with the ground crews at all times. In an emergency, the traction cable can always be detached from the helicopter during the flight. This way, in the event of a breakdown, people and machinery will not be dragged down by the helicopter. It also stops the breakdown of machinery on the ground from rendering the helicopter uncontrollable.”
Denis Janssens-Petit continued: “Throughout these operations, the members of our assembly team are attached to the pylon by their safety harness. When the cables are being pulled, protective wooden gantries are set up in places where the line’s path passes above roads or buildings. The aim of this is to keep the cables hanging at a safe height above buildings and moving vehicles”. When passing over a high-voltage line below, ENGIE Fabricom even provided special, unique protection using interconnected telescopic cranes.