Carrick-on-Shannon is set for a “motorway” of electricity from the €240m Grid West Project earmarked for the region.
Provided by national operator Eirgrid, the project aims to deliver “21st century energy infrastructure to the west of Ireland” by 2020. Ireland aims to be using 40% of renewable resources in the next eight years, and the Grid West Project will be needed to take the new alternative forms of electricity to businesses and homes around this region.
The massive project is only at phase one of information gathering, identifying environmental and other constraints and pre-application and consultation with the public and An Bord Pleanala.
No route has been drawn up yet, but the high voltage system will be running from Bellacorrick’s substation in Mayo to Flagford, Cortober, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Roscommon.
At one of the many regional open days held recently in Ballaghdereen, Alan McHugh Project Manager of Grid West met with the Leitrim Observer to explain the project and set out the stages and objectives of this massive energy move.
The Grid West project is part of the national energy transformation which is hopes to be achieved by 2025. Eirgrid hope to run two lines from wind/ water and other alternative energy stations from Bellacorrick to Cashla, just outside Galway and Flagford, Carrick-on-Shannon. The majority of power lines in the West are 110kV and there is a 220kV line running from Carrick-on-Shannon - these new “motorway” lines will carry 400kV technology and aim to provide a “safer more secure electricity supply.” The upgrade of the lines are compared to upgrade of roads and broadband connections - and according to many businesses are just as essential for investment.
No route has been identified, only connecting substations are certain. Eirgrid want to consult with councils, towns, chambers, local groups, businesses, tourist providers and the general public to try and negotiate the best possible route for the overhead lines and pylons. The national operator want to start these consultations early, to figure out the best routes and to start talks with landowners by March next year. According to the step programme, construction is not expected to commence until 2016 but it is hoped that the project will be complete by 2019. Each stage promises public consultation.
So why is it needed?
Ireland wants to turn away from fossil fuel energy, which we currently depend upon and use out own renewable resources such as wind, wave and tidal energy from the West Coast. This would cut the country’s carbon footprint while also cut down on costs such as oil and gas. Large companies are also seeking a more secure form of energy they can depend upon.
What are the benefits?
Eirgrid tells us the construction of the renewable energy sources will give employment as will the inward investment expected from companies who want to move close to these big energy lines, it will also help local and medium companies the chance to expand with an easy connection to these lines. Although the line is only forecasted to stop in Carrick, the benefit will be for the entire South Leitrim area – as businesses will only have a short way to connect to the motorway lines. The 400kV technology will provide a “safer more secure electricity supply.”
Pylon is a word that stands out in this project, because we know of the protests and campaigns made elsewhere in Ireland against their construction. Project Manager Alan McHugh said the energy towers can be made to any design but are generally 30-40m high and built every 200-300m along the transmission line. Mr McHugh explained the technology does not exist for the construction of long distance underground lines and that the huge cost of them would be burdened by customers.
Protests to the construction of pylons and high voltage overhead lines have centred around health concerns and damage to the environment and ecology. There has been opposition against high voltage power lines locally in Cavan, Sligo, and Donegal as well as in the North East. The North East Pylon Pressure (NEPP) group have argued that the pylons result in health hazards to humans and other animals (including farm animals) from electromagnetic fields from overhead electricity lines. They have also mounted opposition against them for reasons of cost, effect on property values, heritage, landscape and the tourism industry, and because they feel under grounding cables is more environmentally responsible than the pylon proposal.
Alan McHugh said the towers are “perfectly safe and are not dangerous.” He said there is a magnetic field around all electrical appliances but they are under any concerning voltage and these towers are the same. The World Health Organisation (WHO) concluded in 2007 that there are no substantive health issues relations to ELF electric fields at levels generally encountered by the public.
Eirgrid say they would be happy to talk through any concerns the public have, and this is the stage for people to raise such concerns. Mr McHugh said the project has “learned lessons” from other similar projects and they don’t want the lines to be close to scenic places, historic areas, schools, homes or destroy any views. They want to try and get the best route possible, this can only be achieved through public consultation.
Eirgrid have the backing of the business community in the West as well as those in possession of wind farms on the West Coast.
There will be further public consultations and open days held around the region, as Eirgrid gather information. If you want to discuss the project or get more details call: 1890940802 email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.eirgridprojects.com