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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019
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WATCH: How highly-skilled divers and new technology restored electricity to the Aran Islands

An ESB undersea habitat was used to fix a fault in a 10.5 km power cable.

Source: ESB International/YouTube

A DAMAGED UNDERSEA power cable between the Aran islands and the mainland was repaired over the weekend, bringing mains electricity back to Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr.

The electricity cable was damaged in early September, leaving residents of the islands without power for a weekend while a specialist generator was transported there.

a 26-strong ESB team travelled to Inis Mór to work on repairing the 10.5 km cable over the past seven weeks.

The team sent out electrical surges along the cable to pinpoint exactly where the fault was located.

The main problem facing them was that the cable sits at 20 metres of depth beneath the ocean, making it difficult to reach.

Testing equipment on the BargeREV Workers testing equipment on the barge during the repair. Source: Gareth McCormack

In the past, such a fault would be repaired by hauling the cable up onto a barge or ship and repairing it that way – a lengthy and difficult process.

However, this time around the ESB used a pressurised habitat mounted around the cable, which divers plunged under the sea in.

The habitat is similar to a diving bell, a small chamber in which divers can travel under sea.

Work on the BargeREV Work on the barge during the repair operation. Source: Gareth McCormack

“The habitat was based on the design of a hospital incubator giving access to the cable through holes in the side,” said ESB international managing director Ollie Brogan.

“Windows and mirrors are also fitted to give divers 360 degree views of the cable.

Lights and cameras within the habitat means that supervision of divers’ repair work could take place from a surface control cabin.

The habitat is in-house technology designed by ESB. It was used first in 2014 to repair a fault in the Moyle Interconnector – the undersea power cable that links Northern Ireland to Scotland.

A repair team of specialised divers performed a total of 97 separate diving operations as part of the repair.

Power was restored last Friday, with testing taking place over the weekend to ensure everything was functioning correctly.

Read: Residents of Inis Mór will be left without a ferry service from next month

Read: ESB restores power to the Aran Islands

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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