Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Rolling blackouts are a real possibility if interconnector doesn't go ahead' - EirGrid

Grahan Clifford

While tensions are running high regarding the North-South interconnector structure, both sides agree that improvements to the electricity grid are crucial.

According to EirGrid the existing cross-border structure lacks the capacity to carry surplus power. It warns that rolling black-outs are a real possibility unless the interconnector is put in place, allowing it to carry 1,500 megawatts.

EirGrid predicts that some power generators in Northern Ireland may close in the coming years, reducing further electricity supply. So why can't the North-South interconnector be placed underground?

Campaigners say such a linkage would be less disruptive and damaging to the environment and pose less health risks. The recent An Board Pleanála decision, which granted planning permission to EirGrid, accepted this proposal could be explored.

But EirGrid argues that overhead lines have a high level of reliability and can be located quickly and easily should faults need to be repaired. It says this 'flexible technology' can be adapted to a variety of topographies and have relatively low physical impacts on the land.

map eirgrid.PNG

Not so, say opposition campaigners.

They argue that the level of disruption to residential property, farmland and landscapes will be substantial.

But EirGrid maintains that: "There are over 27,000 kilometres of high voltage AC overhead lines planned in the next 10 years across Europe. It is the dominant technology for transmitting large amounts of electricity."

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It adds that if high voltage power is sent underground, more extensive insulation is required.

The Danes have published a plan to place some of Denmark's transmission grid underground. However, EirGrid says this plan relates to lower voltage lines. It says there are no underground 400 kV AC cables in the world close to the length of the North-South interconnector.

Campaigners cite a similar project between Belgium and Germany where power cables are to be undergrounded along public roads.

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