A £1.3 million project to upgrade and replace approximately four kilometres of submarine cable to Caldey Island is being undertaken by Western Power Distribution (WPD) .

Like many small islands, Caldey is dependent on a reliable electricity supply from the mainland, and because the two existing underwater cables are almost 30-years-old and in need of renewal, it's hardly surprising that such an unusual and specialist project has required months of careful planning.

Chris Gunner, WPD's team manager for the area, explained: "Together with our colleagues in Wayleaves, we've worked and consulted with a number of agencies over the past year, including Pembrokeshire National Park, the county council, Crown Estates, the Environment Agency and, of course, the island's business manager.

"The existing cables were laid back in the early 1980s and have now started to deteriorate. They have an average life span of roughly 20 years, so they are due to be replaced, but it's quite a complex project and there are a lot of factors to consider.

"We are not only restricted by tidal currents between the island and the mainland, but also by the weather which can be a major factor. We've also had to make sure that local traders and pleasure boat operators are fully informed and included in our consultations.

"Because we needed one length of submarine cable four kilometres long, we worked closely with cable specialists to get exactly what was needed for the job. We've also had to order a special type of boat to carry the cable because of its size and weight."

The cable will lie approximately 11 metres below the surface and the intention is to retrieve as much of the old cable as possible.

Added Chris: "Our plan is to lay the new cable during the first two weeks of September, but before this takes place, our contractor Balfour Beatty will be required to carry out excavations and install cable to connect the overhead line network to the submarine cable which will be terminated above the high water mark. WPD apprentices, craftsmen and technicians have been installing new automation equipment.

"We are mindful that Caldey is well known for its magnificent expanse of sandy beach, so it's quite a challenging exercise.

"We wanted to ensure that we caused as little disruption and upheaval to the landscape and beach as possible, and we certainly want everyone to feel satisfied with the job once it's completed."

Estate manager, Ben Childs, was delighted the work was being undertaken and said: "On behalf of the monastic community and the lay people, we would like to thank Western Power Distribution for their efforts and hard work on this scheme."