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Putting North-South interconnector underground more expensive - report

A report on the proposed electricity interconnector between the North and South of the island has made no recommendations.

Image: kev_bite, via Flickr

A REPORT HAS found that putting a north-south electricity interconnector underground as opposed to overground would be more expensive though it would be technically possible.

The International Expert Commission’s ‘Meath-Tyrone Report‘, carried out last year, says that the cost of linking the electricity grids of the Republic of Ireland and the North by means of underground cables would rise from €167m to €500m.

Residents along the Monaghan-Tyrone border have expressed opposition to the construction of electricity pylons across the countryside in their area. The interconnector line would be some 140 kilometres long.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte commissioned a three-man panel to carry out a report after the planning process collapsed. The company proposing the interconnector, Eirgrid, has argued that it would be too expensive and difficult to maintain an underground line.

The report bases the increased cost of the project going underground on recent projects in Europe which dealt with similar terrains to that which are involved in the Irish project.

It also says  that the overground innterconnector could be made more attractive by the use of new pylon designs rather than the steel lattice towers which are currently proposed and are common in Ireland.

These are some of the possible designs contained in the report:

“The traditional lattice steel tower will still offer the lowest cost,” the report notes. “Alternative designs with reduced EMF [Electro Magnetic Fields] and/or less visual impact will offer somewhat higher costs.”

The authors say they did not examine any possible health implications, the potential impact on nearby property value or land devaluation caused by the potential construction of overhead cables.

“The Commission is not recommending any solution as such,” the report also says.

Nonetheless, Rabbitte welcomed the report’s publication and indicated that after a brief consultation period he would go back to the government “with a memorandum on Security of Energy Supply, to which Eirgrid and the planning process will have regard.”

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Hugh O'Connell

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