Proposals to remove unsightly electricity cables from the landscape with a move towards underground wiring were discussed at the BMW Regional Assembly this month during a review of EirGrid’s plans to upgrade the national electricity transmission network.
At the meeting in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, last week, Aidan Corcoran, Eirgrid senior transmission manager, explained the grid upgrade was essential in order to support reliability of supply and make better use of Ireland’s considerable renewable energy resources.
Mr Corcoran added that there were several challenges to be overcome for Ireland to reach the ambitious target of 40 per cent electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020, and outlined that Ireland relies on natural gas for 55 per cent of its electricity generation fuel, which is not sustainable.
Members of the assembly raised several concerns in relation to plans for a number of new high voltage transmission pylon lines in the region. Concerns were also raised in relation to electromagnetic radiation emissions and the absence of a clear national policy in this area. Alternative methods were suggested, including the use of DC power systems or the running of transmission lines underwater around the coast. However Mr Corcoran said that underwater cables did not obviate the need for overland transmission.
Several members proposed that the transmission lines be placed underground due to the unsightly visual impacts of overhead lines and growing public opposition among affected landowners. It was emphasised that a small but increasing proportion of power lines are being installed underground in other EU member states.
Mr Corcoran acknowledged that public acceptability of high voltage power lines was in decline, but said that overhead lines are preferable from a technical, operational, security, and efficiency perspective.