EirGrid has moved to allay concerns about its proposed new electricity supply line to Mullingar, saying there are no health or other risks associated with the project.
However, they say there is no possibility that the line will be placed underground, despite repeated calls from councillors.
The proposed project aims to reinforce the electricity supply to the town by introducing a third 110 kV line, of 26km length, into the town from Kinnegad. The line is expected to cost in the region of €25 million.
“We propose to reinforce the current electrical system by introducing a third line from Kinnegad. The demand in Mullingar is putting strain on the network and we need to reinforce it as we don’t have the capacity for it. Without it we could see lights flickering or dimming, or power outages at times of high consumption,” explained Neil Keenan of EirGrid.
However, councillors at Monday’s county council meeting were disappointed when EirGrid rejected suggestions that the line be placed underground.
“If there’s a fault it’s much easier to deal with overhead wires. Over the 26km there would be 50 joints, and for underground wires you would need joints which are a number of metres wide and deep. It would be extremely difficult and costly,” said Micheal McKittrick, project manager at Atkins, the consultants behind the project.
Mr Keenan also added that a fault on an underground line could take many days to fix, while overhead lines could be reinstated in a matter of minutes or hours.
“EirGrid are absolutely satisfied there are no health risks. Standing under a power line is the same as sitting in front of a computer,” he added.
The company says it has carried out environmental and bird surveys, which included the examination of bird migration patterns.
EirGrid also assured councillors that they are engaging fully with farmers and landowners who may be affected by the new line.
“There are 66 landowners affected, and we have met with 65 of them on numerous occasions with proposals to minimise the impact on farming activity. We have been able to achieve this for many of them.
“EirGrid have 4,000km of structures all around the country running through farmland and populated areas. This is the latest technology and design, and there are clearances so all machinery can operate under them. We are also trying to put them as close to field boundaries as possible,” added Mr Keenan.
Two days of public consultation are to be held in November, and members of the public are also invited to make written submissions.
Further information is available at www.eirgridprojects.com