Eirgrid has been warned not to alienate Co Mayo communities who may be affected by a proposed over-ground high-capacity power line.
The consultancy period of the €240 million high-capacity power line, which is required to export renewable energy from Mayo, is expected to start in the next couple of months. It will be completed in 2020 if all goes according to plan.
Renewable energy sources
The GridWest project entails the installation of a power line to Bellacorick, Erris, to cater for the renewable energy which is proposed to be generated from wave and wind energy in north Mayo.
A presentation by representatives from Eirgrid, the state-owned electric-power-transmission operator, was made to members of Mayo County Council, who explained that the preferred option was to build a 400KV power line, which would cater for energy leaving and coming into Mayo.
It is proposed to link up this line with existing power stations at Cashla, Co Galway, or at Flagford, Co Roscommon.
Deborah Meghan, the West Regional Manager for Eirgrid explained that the project is currently at ‘infancy’ stage and they would start investigating which route options. She said three-and-a-half years worth of studies would have to be completed before a planning application would be lodged with An Bord Pleanala.
She told the councillors that there was no ‘magic book’ to consult when dealing with public concerns and that Eirgrid would need their help to identify potential community concerns and their advice in dealing with them.
The project was broadly welcomed by the councillors, but they stressed that not everyone will be happy to have high-voltage pylons running through their land. They urged Eirgrid to look at every available option to ensure that community concerns are dealt with.
Pylons a ‘hard sell’
Cllr Al McDonnell said that pylons are unattractive and are not easy to sell to the public, and he urged Eirgrid to consult with residents. Cllr Seamus Weir said it was inevitable that some people will object to pylons going through their area and he urged Eirgrid to consult and to ensure that communities were not ‘split in two’ over the project.
Cllr Gerry Ginty added that the Corrib gas project and the GridWest project were not comparable, as the former was benefiting multinationals while the latter was for the benefit of the people.
The investment was welcomed by Cllr Jarlath Munnelly, who pointed out that renewable energy was useless without the infrastructure to export it.
“We talk a lot about renewable energy in this county and we are ambitious, but it is no good if we don’t have the grid. If this project is delayed it could scupper other projects,” he said. He asked that Eirgrid keep the Council informed of developments.
Underground more expensive
When asked about the possibility of putting the cables underground, the councillors were told it was an option but would be five to seven times more expensive than the planned pylons.
Mr Peter Hynes, County Manager, explained that Co Mayo has its renewable energy plan in place but needed the improved grid to export the energy that it will produce. He also said that a high-voltage power line was also necessary to attract large industries, which currently do not have access to the power they need.
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