Underground or overground cables? No decision yet, but campaigners haven't gone away

The expert group is not expected to give their opinion until next year.

FOR THE FIRST half of the year, pylons and Eirgrid dominated many of the headlines.

There was much debate whether they were needed, the health implications, the damage it might cause to the landscape and property prices.

Ministers flagged that underground cables would just be too expensive, and that over ground cables were the way to go. However, then an expert group was established to examine what would be the best option and that is where we stand right now.

Decisions, decisions

While the jury is out, campaigners are still holding public meetings to continue their momentum to prevent pylons coming to their area.

Speaking to Raymond Horkan from the Kilmovee and Ballaghadereen Against Pylons committees, he said nothing has been agreed, but believes that considering the underground cables is just “box-ticking” for the Government and Eirgrid.

“Underground cables are a viable option. It has been done before with the East-West Interconnector which connects the Irish power system to the electricity grid in Britain through undersea and underground cables.

“By simply replicating this project for the Grid West project, Eirgrid could save themselves a lot of hassle, but our group doesn’t feel that the use of underground cables is going to happen and we are here to oppose that,” said Horkan.

He said they welcomed that an independent expert group are looking at the issue, adding that the decision has been taken out of their hands, in some respects, but said that they hope that any positive recommendations that come out of their report are listened to.

Keeping up the pressure

Horkan added:

We are keeping the pressure on that overground cables and pylons will be a blight on the landscape. We don’t have huge industry up here, but the one thing we do have in Mayo is fantastic scents, environmental cleanliness and beautiful vistas.With Ireland marketing itself on our scenery, like that with the Wild Atlantic Way, it would be madness to ignore the long-term impact this will have, because once they are up, they’re up, and by then it will be too late.

Eirgrid told that the independent panel of experts, chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness, are currently reviewing the underground options for the Grid West and the Grid Link projects. This is in response to feedback from public consultations last year that people wanted to see more details on under grounding, said Eirgrid. 

The Grid West Project published an underground route in June and this was followed by a public consultation which recently concluded. All feedback from the public will be considered as part of their report to the expert panel.

They said the group are expected to submit their report on the project later this year.

However, both Grid West and the Grid Link projects are currently at different stages of development.

Grid Link

With Grid Link, Eirgrid are working to identify both underground and overhead routes for the project before they said they can proceed to the next stages of project development, which will include a public consultation on both routes. Once this is completed, they will submit a report on the Grid Link Project to the expert group.

Until the expert group has had the opportunity to examine those reports and been able to provide an opinion to Government no decision will be made on how either project will proceed, said Eirgrid. 

The expert group said that the process is now under way and will be in a position to provide an opinion to Government on the Grid West Project in January 2015. An opinion on the Grid Link Project is not expected to be provided until around the end-July 2015.

Explainer: What’s happening with electricity pylons and why is it such a big issue?>

Read: There is a low-cost alternative to Grid25 pylon project, finds new report>

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