ONE kilometre of 132,000-volt cables are the secret powerhouse behind Gloucester’s most rapidly expanding part of the city.
With more than 2,000 people and 60 businesses operating in Gloucester Docks and the Quays, a £9million investment in the power infrastructure that supports the area has been announced.
Western Power Distribution, the electricity distributor for the region, is improving supply reliability. The four year project has involved upgrading a major substation in the centre of Gloucester and installing 1km of cable to connect it to an existing substation at Castle Meads, where a new transformer has also been installed.
The work will allow the historic docklands to expand seamlessly. It will also safeguard power to existing homes and businesses in the area.
Project engineer James Moten, who has overseen the work, said: “The substation is in a conservation area and the council was keen to retain as much of its character as possible. Several redundant buildings including the original power station had to be demolished to make room for the new electrical equipment.
“However we were able to retain one of the original office buildings and refurbish it, so that it could house some of the equipment.
“It was thought that the original building dated back to the 1890s, but during the refurbishment work we discovered that it had a vaulted cellar which had been colonised by bats. Experts suggest the cellar could date back to the 18th century. It has been a very interesting process and we have found out lots of history about the area.
“Plans also revealed that the substation site is built on top of a Roman settlement and a medieval castle, so all excavations were closely monitored by archaeologists.
“Several Saxon and Roman artifacts were discovered during the course of the work as well."
Not least among the challenges for the team on the project was the discovery of bats in one of the old substations buildings. Since bats are a protected species, all work had to stop to allow monitoring to take place over a number of months until the creatures were ready to move out. Twelve months later, the bats decided to do just that and the demolition work could begin.
A number of abandoned electrical cables were also removed from the site – some from 1899 when the first substation was established on the site.
The final stage of the project saw the installation and connection of the new electrical equipment at both substations.