The advice from Denis Henshaw of the University of Bristol is supported by a report from the European Commission that recommended putting cables underground where possible.
A number of countries have most of their low-voltage lines underground and are burying an increasing percentage of high-voltage cables — similar to those in Eirgrid’s new transmission system.
Prof Henshaw said there were compelling reasons for putting cables underground and that it would cost less than the figure of €600m cited by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil recently.
Even at that price, this would work out at around €4 per person a year given that the cabling would last between 30 to 50 years.
“This is a small cost and would remove the problem,” said Prof Henshaw, an expert in the field for more than 20 years.
Burying the line means there is no electromagnet field and no corona fields, he said. Underground cables lose less electricity than those overhead and are less affected by bad weather. The danger to people and animals living within 100 metres was largely eliminated. More of the land could be used for farming activities and the landscape would not be spoiled with pylons.
An EU report recommended that to complete the linking-up of electricity networks in Europe, and to increase the security of supply from very high voltages of 220KV to 400KV, especially in environmentally sensitive areas, the cables should be underground.
The amount of high-voltage cable being buried is still quite low throughout the EU, but is increasing. Following storms in France in 1999, the Paris government decided on a policy of burying significant parts of its electricity lines, but its very high 400KV lines should only be buried in exceptional cases.
Storm damage took six months to completely repair and cost €1.3bn. There were 19 deaths from overhead lines in the country in 2000 but none from contact with underground cables.
The Netherlands has all its low and medium-voltage lines underground while Britain, Germany, and Denmark buried most of theirs 10 years ago. The report noted that in 2000 of Ireland’s 5,800km of high and medium-voltage lines, just 75km was underground.