Eirgrid is in discussions with Cork County Council officials to see if it is possible to use some or all of the proposed greenway between Youghal and Midleton to duct cabling for part of a €1 billion electricity interconnector between France and Ireland.
Eirgrid has said it hopes to be in a position to announce later this month to announce the best options in East Cork for a converter station and landfall location, as well as routes for the underground electricity cable.
Gary Nolan, Celtic Interconnector project manager, told a meeting of the East Cork municipal district council that the options for the landfall site for the 575km submarine cable which will connect the north-west coast of Brittany with Ireland had been whittled down to three. These are Redbarn and Claycastle beaches in Youghal and Ballinwilling Strand, near Garryvoe.
A special electricity converter station will have to be built as the French will transmit high voltage direct current (DC) which will then be converted into alternating current (AC) at the converter station.
Six locations are being looked at for the converter station and they are located in the greater Leamlara and Knockraha areas as well as Ballyadam, Midleton, which was the site once earmarked for Amgen.
The converter station will then connect onto the national grid at the ESB station at Knockraha, 7km north-east of Glanmire.
Each converter station location zone and landfall location has been assessed against five criteria; economic, technical, environmental, socioeconomic and deliverability. Mr Nolan said Eirgrid was now moving into detailed design of the project and hoped construction will start in 2023.
The European Commission has agreed to provide €500m for the project and the remainder will come from the Irish and French governments.
He said the Celtic Interconnector will link the electricity grids of Ireland and France, providing the country's first direct link to continental Europe. M Nolan said:
It will be able to import and export up to 700 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 450,000 homes, and will go live in 2026
Cllr James O'Connor said he was concerned about the impact to tourism if the submarine cable landfall was on either of Youghal's beaches. Cllr Michael Hegarty said running the cable along the greenway should be considered and was told by Mr Nolan this was the case.
"It would eliminate a lot of disruption," Cllr Hegarty said.
Cllr Hegarty also proposed that the former Amgen site was the ideal location for the converter station.
However, Mr Nolan said there are caverns in the area which could present problems. Cllr Hegarty said modern engineering is able to provide a solution to that by providing floating foundations.