Farmers need ‘changeover’ power switch to tackle any future outages

Farmers should invest in a generator or at the very least in a ‘changeover’ power switch to combat future electricity outages, said one north Kerry farmer.
Farmers need ‘changeover’ power switch to tackle any future outages

ICMSA member Maurice Walsh’s 65-cow herd missed three milkings when his farm went without electricity for a day and a half last week. He now intends to ask an electrician to install a changeover switch to allow him to turn off the ESB supply while he switches over his milking machines to a generator supply, without the risk of a power surge should the ESB suddenly resume service.

“Every farmer should be told to fit the changeover switch,” said Mr Walsh. “I may even have to invest in a generator. We had this kind of flooding a few years ago, and we’ll see it again in future years.”

Mr Walsh could not power up his milking machines from Wednesday morning to Thursday evening. He took a chance that power would be restored quickly. As it turned out, he was lucky.

“One farmer friend of mine still has no power,” said Mr Walsh. “It has been very hard going. The damage has been ferocious. Some people had no water because they’ve a well on their farm powered by electricity.”

One friend milked his herd using a vacuum tank, normally used for slurry. The big problem for farmers was not knowing when power would be restored in their area. “My issue is that we had no idea when the power would come back on,” said Maurice Walsh.

“When you rang the ESB, you only got an answering machine telling you to go to the website, but you can’t look at the website if you have no power. You couldn’t get to talk to anybody. In fairness, I know they were doing their best. I heard there was a 1.5km power line on the ground at Knocknagoshel.”

The ESB yesterday issued the ICMSA with a list indicating which areas have and have not had their power restored. In Bandon, 2,100 services were restored and 300 remain without electricity. In Fermoy, 4,850 are back, 1,050 are still out.

Other examples of those still without electricity yesterday included: Killarney (980), Dunmanway (1,340), Cork City (115), Portlaoise / Kilkenny (450), and Waterford/Clonmel (550).

“Wind and rain are hampering the restoration process,” the ESB stated. “While the effort to clear all the safety hazards, primarily caused by trees falling on the network, continues to be our highest priority, ESB Networks ask the public not to go near fallen lines.”

ICMSA president John Comer said that anxiety was growing among farmers as to when supplies will be restored. Dairy farmers needed to know when supplies would be restored in the event of them needing to locate or hire generators to power their parlours and so milk their cows.

“While I understand the pressure the ESB is under it is pointless referring farmers without power to website updates,” he said.

“What is required is a regular and location-specific schedule to be announced on national and local radio stations and in papers, more accessible information which would allow people — particularly dairy farmers — to work out what their next steps should be.”

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