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Protecting vital infrastructure – SSE invests over £1m in flood defences

3 Dec 2014

“Water and electricity do not mix”, states Chris Slingsby, Major Projects Manager of UK electrical utility SSE, announcing over £1m investment in flood defence equipment. The measures are necessary to protect electricity substations from flooding due to extreme rainfalls and high tides. Protecting vital infrastructure from flooding is one of the most important challenges of adapting to climate change in the coming decades, and one that will require the problem-solving skills of tomorrow's Civil Engineers to overcome."

Ahead of this winter Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD) is enhancing its flood protection technology so that its equipment continues to function, even when the tides begin to rise. Torrential rainfalls which battered Berkshire and parts of Hampshire earlier this year posed a serious risk of flooding to substations, with the company having to use a combination of sandbags and water pumps to ensure that the equipment remained operable, and the lights stayed on.

The £1.1m defences take the form of an easy to assemble, galvanised steel barricade which is then covered by watertight sheeting. The new kit is designed to prevent the water coming into the substations in the first instance, and even if some water does seep through, then it won’t pose a serious risk to safety or the equipment because the substations are designed to operate in all weather conditions.

Chris Slingsby, SEPD's Major Projects Manager, explains what these defences mean for customers in central southern England: "Water and electricity do not mix and can potentially be fatal. During the floods that battered most of the south earlier this year, we managed to keep our substations running despite water being waist high just outside the door. We did this through careful monitoring of water levels and using pumps to keep the water out. We want to ensure that we keep the lights on safely and reliably even if we do get battered by floods again, and that’s why we are taking preventative measures with these defences.”

Over 70 staff from depots across the SEPD area have received specialist training so that they are all primed and ready to jump into action if the weather should turn and the waters begin to rise, and Chris was impressed with the feedback he got from everyone involved:

"The feedback from all the teams who attended our training sessions has been very positive. When the bad weather hits, everyone knows that they could be working in a highly dangerous, but safe environment, and it's important that everyone receives the proper training in advance. For our customers there’s the reassurance that we at SEPD are doing everything possible to ensure that the lights stay on – no matter what the weather throws at us.”

Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

Innealtóireacht Shibhialta agus Timpeallachta

University College Cork, Cork