EirGrid scraps plans to build super pylons in Wexford

David TuckerGorey Guardian

EirGrid has scrapped its plans to build a network of huge electricity pylons that would have cut a swathe through of west Wexford.

The plans sparked a wave of protest from communities throughout the west of the county, which would have been the main focus of the north-south interconnector route.

The company has now revealed that it will instead use smart grid technology that will enable more power to flow through existing lines.

The decision follows an assessment of Eirgrid's plans by a government-appointed Independent Expert Panel in relation to its review of EirGrid's report on the Grid Link project.

County Wexford Energy Action Group claimed up to 20,000 people would have been potentially affected by the chain of massive pylons which had been proposed.

All four routes would have passed through at least some small part of County Wexford to connect with the Great Island power station, but one was hugely contentious in the county as it would follow a route from near Askamore in the north, through areas including Tombrack and Ballindaggin, on by Ballywilliam and then near New Ross town before reaching Great Island.

The EirGrid report to the Panel set out an analysis of alternative options to meet the need of the Grid Link project. The report considered both overhead and underground solutions in respect of environmental, technological and economic characteristics.

In addition to this, EirGrid said it had set out a new and innovative technical solution, referred to as the 'Regional Option', based on technology which is capable of strengthening the existing grid infrastructure in the region.

This meets the needs of the project without building new large scale overhead infrastructure.

The 'regional option' alternative was first published by EirGrid in March 2015, in its 'Your Grid Your Views' draft strategy document where the company set out three strategic pillars for developing the grid; open engagement with communities, making the most of new technologies and a commitment to make the existing grid work harder before building new transmission infrastructure.

The Regional Option uses a technology known as 'series compensation'.

This would be the first time it will be deployed on the Irish transmission grid. It is an advanced, smart grid technology that will enable more power to flow through existing lines, and so does not require new 400 kV overhead lines. To complete this solution, an underwater cable across the Shannon estuary is required in addition to some upgrade works to existing transmission lines.

Welcoming the Panel's report Fintan Slye, Chief Executive, EirGrid, said: 'The emergence of the new 'Regional Option' means there is now no requirement to proceed with the previously proposed Grid Link 400 kV overhead line.'

'I am very pleased to confirm that we will now be moving ahead to deliver what I believe is a better option for all concerned.'