High-voltage cables are to be laid underwater across the Shannon Estuary as part of Eirgrid’s new plan to boost electricity supplies without more pylons.
Technology never before seen in Ireland, and in limited use internationally, will see 400kV cables laid between Moneypoint in Clare and Kilpaddoge in Kerry.
Details emerged as Eirgrid announced it was abandoning controversial plans for extensive new networks of pylons from Cork to Kildare.
The company will instead boost capacity at existing stations and substations across the South and South-East, adding conductors that will enable the pylons already in place to transmit more electricity.
It said the technique, known as ‘series compensation’ had not been used in Ireland before but was well established elsewhere.
The underwater section was “untried” in Ireland and “relatively new worldwide”, but was a low-risk option.
Anti-pylon campaigners in the region welcomed the decision. “We are delighted that our campaigning efforts have paid off,” said Maura Leigh of the Grid Link Action Group.
Energy Minister Alex White also backed the plan. “It reconciles community concerns about grid infrastructure with the need to maintain sufficient capacity,” he said.
However, campaigners in the West who unsuccessfully opposed plans for new pylons across that region are expected to push for a review of that decision.
At a cost of €157m, the series compensation plan is far cheaper than the €215m overhead pylons and €643m underground cable alternatives Eirgrid previously considered, but Eirgrid chief executive Fintan Slye defended the company’s failure to explore the option earlier.
He said when planning began in 2008, demand for electricity and anticipated future demand was much higher so the preference was for pylons which could deliver higher capacity.
He denied that the company had been forced into an embarrassing climbdown.
“What this shows is that we do listen to people and that we are not a company that just wants to build pylons for the sake of building pylons,” said Mr Slye. “What we want to do is find the right answer.”
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