Going underground: EirGrid may ditch pylon plans for 'K4' region
EIRGRID is now considering abandoning its controversial plans to erect huge pylons across the so-called K4 region in Kildare, which is home to some of Ireland's wealthiest business moguls and big hitters in the bloodstock industry.
The move follows the recent announcement that the semi-state company is considering an underground option on the Grid West route across 100km between Counties Mayo and Roscommon.
EirGrid has confirmed to the Sunday Independent that it will undertake a similar analysis of undergrounding the Grid Link project in the south-west, running from Cork to Kildare. The company said it hopes to publish its findings by the end of this year.
Kildare will be particularly affected by plans to erect giant, 43-metre pylons across one of the wealthiest areas in the country, which has been dubbed 'K4'.
The county is home to a number of large estates and prestigious stud farms, including the Gilltown estate owned by the Aga Khan, as well as homes owned by Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood and former media baron Anthony O'Reilly, whose Castlemartin Estate is due to go on the market soon to help pay off the businessman's debts. The region is also home to many of the country's top horse trainers, with Ted Walsh, Dermot Weld, Jessica Harrington and John Oxx all based in the county.
An EirGrid spokesman told the Sunday Independent: "We can absolutely confirm that an underground option for the Grid Link Project will also be identified over the coming months.
"We estimate that this will be published for consultation at the end of this year, along with the identified least constrained corridor, within which an over-ground line could be routed."
EirGrid's statement on the underground option was cautiously welcomed by some of the many anti-pylon groups that have sprung up across the county.
Leading figures in the bloodstock industry also came out in support of the underground option.
Top horse trainer Jessica Harrington told the Sunday Independent: "We have a gas pipeline going through the region so I cannot see why the wires cannot also go below the ground.
"Horses hate the pylons because when you get close and stand under them you can hear a buzzing and this drives the horses mad. They hate it.
"Also, all of the visitors and horse owners that come here always remark about how beautiful the area is and if they erect the pylons then that scenery will be ruined.
"It is most unfair on the next generation. If we allow the pylons to go up that generation would be well entitled to ask us: 'Why did you let this happen?' It will ruin the beautiful scenery we have and it will really scar the land," she added.
The horse trainer said local people were very sceptical about information provided so far by EirGrid about the cost of putting the high-voltage wires underground.
She added: "We need to see facts and figures because it is not good enough that they tell us that putting the wires below ground will add €50 per month to our electricity bills because this cannot be proven."
Even recently elected councillors from the Government parties on Kildare County Council are vehemently opposed to the plans to erect giant pylons across huge swathes of the scenic countryside.
Labour Councillor Aoife Breslin told the Sunday Independent: "The economic consequences are going to outweigh the economic benefits that are going to come.
"You have to protect the environment, you have to protect people's livestock and you have to protect the horse industry around here and you have to protect the tourist industry, and this is going to do away with all of this."
Fine Gael's Darren Scully also favoured the underground option, but warned that financing such a project could come at an enormous cost. "Kildare is very fortunate to have companies like Intel, Hewlett Packard and now Kerry Group providing jobs in the county, so we have to be able to provide sustainable power to continue to attract investment," Mr Scully said.
"I am from an engineering background myself, so I am wondering what the costs (of putting the grid below ground) will be and how they will be paid," he said.