Mayo Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin has told the Dáil that the poor electricity transmission network in Mayo is jeopardising a number major alternative energy projects in the county which are at an advanced stage of planning.
Deputy Mulherin has called for EirGrid to be directed to implement smart grid technology, starting with a pilot project in north Mayo, to stretch capacity on the existing electricity grid lines in order to facilitate the projects.
“I very much welcome the plans to develop the grid into the west, which will represent a €240 million investment in the area by EirGrid. A 400KV line will go into County Mayo, which is much needed. However, at the rate matters are progressing, that line will not be in place until 2019 to 2020.”
The existing lines are nearing saturation and there is not enough capacity to accommodate the projects including plans for wind, wave and biomass energy businesses, said the Deputy. “At this stage I am asking the minister to set up a pilot project in north Mayo. In 2012 EirGrid made a contentious decision to increase the total amount of wind energy connected to the existing 110 kV network under Gate 3 in this area from 170 MW to 340 MW, but the line does not have that capacity. Some windfarm developers were made offers prior to that decision and proceeded to invest in their projects on the understanding was that there would be no more than 180 MW accommodated on that line.”
The Deputy added: “I ask the minister to be innovative. We cannot wait till 2019. I know there is a plan to develop a circuit between Ballina and Castlebar which would reinforce the line and allow the 340MW up rate.”
Responding Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said: “EirGrid is considering at present whether measures would be possible to facilitate the connection of additional wind generation in areas of Ireland, including Mayo, while the development of vital grid infrastructure developments is ongoing in parallel. There is an analysis underway of the large number of wind generation sites seeking to connect to the grid. After it is completed, it is EirGrid’s intention to specify where further studies on smart grid technologies might take place. I do not want to be dragged into telling EirGrid how to do its job or pre-empt the analysis. I understand, however, EirGrid will consider including County Mayo, among other areas, in further studies to commence this summer on this topic.”