EirGrid rethinks plan for scheme involving new overhead power lines
Energy chiefs have dropped plans for 250km of high voltage overhead power lines to modernise electricity supplies from Cork to Waterford and on to Kildare.
Network company EirGrid will upgrade existing lines using new technology which boosts capacity on existing pylon links from the coal fired power station in Moneypoint, Co Clare to the greater Dublin area.
It was one of two options put forward earlier this year amid massive rural opposition to the controversial Grid Link plans for more powerful overhead lines to secure energy supplies for the coming decades.
An underground cable was suggested at a cost of 850 million euro - 300m euro more than the high voltage overhead lines.
The new "series compensation" technology on Grid Link is a first for Ireland's electricity network and it will include the addition of an underwater cable at the Shannon estuary.
It involves using the existing 400 kilovolt grid infrastructure and will create new capacity to allow energy from more renewable projects to be added to the system.
An independent expert panel set up to analyse EirGrid projects in January revealed the "regional option" concept for Grid Link in a report to Alex White, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
"Given EirGrid's clear preference for the regional option, which does not involve any development of any new overhead lines or any significant sections of underground cable, it would appear that the Grid Link overhead line and underground cable options are unlikely to be implemented in the short to medium term," it said.
"In the longer term, should such options be revived in the future, it is likely that there would be need for considerable scrutiny at that stage."
Mr White said the local communities in areas from Cork to Waterford and on to Kildare would welcome the decision.
"It reconciles community concerns about grid infrastructure with the need to maintain sufficient capacity to meet the electricity needs of homes, businesses and communities as cost-effectively as possible," he said.
"It also demonstrates that meeting citizens' concerns about energy infrastructure can be compatible with taking the necessary steps to de-carbonise our energy system and tackle global warming."
EirGrid said the "regional option" of "series compensation" would use new, innovative technology to boost the strength of the existing grid infrastructure and meet demands.
Fintan Slye, EirGrid chief executive, 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 today to confirm that we will now be moving ahead to deliver what I believe is a better option for all concerned. Finally, I would like to thank those communities who took the time to engage with us and provided us with such valuable feedback."
In other contentious projects to modernise and secure Ireland's electricity supplies EirGrid has already ruled out burying the North-South connector from a substation in Woodland, Co Meath to Turleenan, Co Tyrone.
EirGrid's entire national project was originally projected to cost anything from 2.7-3.9 billion euro depending on the choices made on the voltage lines.
A third plan is for Grid West, to link 647 megawatts of renewable generation projects in Mayo to the national grid in Roscommon and upgrade the network from the existing Bellacorick substation in north Mayo.
One of three options is expected to be announced in the coming weeks - a single underground cable costing 475m euro; a 220 kilovolt overhead cable with 30km underground costing 205-250m euro; and a 400 kilovolt overhead line with eight km underground costing 220m euro.