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Saturday 30 August 2014

Eirgrid announces underground option for controversial Grid West pylon project

Paul Melia, Environment Correspondent

Published 23/06/2014 | 10:43

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Eirgrid chief executive Fintan Slye
Eirgrid chief executive Fintan Slye

EIRGRID has announced an underground option for the controversial Grid West pylon project.

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The move comes after the Government ordered the national grid operator to consider undergrounding all or part of the 113km project planned between Roscommon and north west Mayo, instead of building it entirely overground on pylons.

Since January, EirGrid has identified a number of possible underground routes for the project.

The preferred route runs mainly along local and regional roads from from Moygownagh in Mayo, between Crossmolina and Ballina, down the east side of Lough Conn, north-east of Foxford and north of Charlestown, Ballaghaderreen and Frenchpark in County Roscommon to the Flagford substation area, south-west of Carrick-on-Shannon.

The work has been carried out in consultation with local authorities in Mayo, Roscommon and Galway, as well as the National Roads Authority and other relevant agencies.

No decision has been made on whether the line will be constructed above or underground. An independent expert panel appointed by the Government will compare both options, before a decision is made.

The overground line is set to cost €240m, but an underground option would be more expensive. Electricity customers pay the cost of infrastructure through their bills, but not until the end of the year will the amount needed to build the line emerge.

The line is needed to transmit power from renewable energy projects on the west coast to the national grid.

EirGrid's analysis of the underground and overhead options will be reviewed by the Independent Expert Panel appointed by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, later this year.

This will provide "assurance" to the public that both the overhead and underground options are considered in a fair, objective and comparable way, EirGrid said.

"We received extensive feedback from our public consultation and in January we responded with a number of important initiatives, including looking at underground options for the Grid West Project," EirGrid chief executive Fintan Slye said.

"Details of this underground route option are available today on the project website, www.eirgridprojects.com/gridwest. Over the coming weeks we will be asking the people of the west to review the work we have done to develop this underground route option and also proposed amendments to the overhead route corridor, and to provide us with their feedback on both.

"Importantly, the work we are doing on both underground and overhead options will be brought together into a single report later this year. This report will be submitted first to the Independent Expert Panel and, subject to its approval, published for public consultation,"

Minor changes to the existing route are also planned including undergrounding over 7km of the existing 220kV line into Flagford. It also involves an alternative substation site or the option to underground lower voltage lines (110kV lines) into the proposed substation at Moygownagh. Partial undergrounding will lessen the visual impact of wires in and around both substations.

EirGrid will also write to landowners and homeowners affected by the preferred underground route, option as well as updating landowners within the emerging preferred overhead route corridor option. Over the coming week EirGrid will be contacting stakeholders with details about how and where they can review this work, meet with the project team and provide feedback

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