Eirgrid will start digging trenches in East Cork from next spring for the Celtic Interconnector cables which will bring electricity into the country from France, and those who will benefit from the project's €2.4m community fund will have to live within a 2km radius of the ducting.
This news was provided to councillors representing the East Cork Municipal District Council by senior Eirgrid officials.
They said they will start construction “on the ground” early next year and this will involve firstly digging inland trenches and subsequently laying cables over 40kms between the submarine cable landfall at Claycastle beach, Youghal, to connect to the national grid at Knockraha.
The contract has been awarded to Siemens Energy to build a converter station at Ballyadam, Carrigtwohill (the former Amgen site) which will convert the type of electricity sent from Brittany to make it suitable for the Irish grid.
Eirgrid officials maintained as little disruption as possible will be felt by communities living along the cable-laying pathline, which runs along the N25 road corridor before skirting around Killeagh and Castlemartyr — through private land — and then heading off the main road again around the Three-Mile-Inn, east of Midleton, and then north of Midleton onto the Ballyadam site in Carrigtwohill.
They said that the submarine cable connecting the two countries won’t be connected until 2025 or 2026 and, as Claycastle is a ‘Blue Flag’ beach, they won’t do any trenching work there until the off-season.
It is expected that trial turning on of the cable won’t commence until 2026 and the final works on connecting the submarine cable will only be finalised in the winter to prevent disruption to the tourist season.
A working team has been set up, under the auspices of Irish Rural Link, which will be ultimately overseen by SECAD, the East Cork development partnership, to develop guidelines for the distribution of a €2.4m community fund — a payback for communities impacted by the project.
But despite calls from some councillors in the East Cork area, Eirgrid officials said they didn’t want to widen the 2km limit radius criteria for funding.
To date, Eirgrid and partners are dealing with around 18 community groups which will benefit from the €2.4m funding stream. Eirgrid officials said that criteria for projects to be funded should be completed by SECAD next Spring, at which time they will be made public.
The main contractor for the trench-digging works will be appointed next spring and it is likely shortly afterwards that a schedule of works will be identified providing near exact timelines in each area for trench-digging operations.
Eirgrid officials said such schedules will pinpoint homes/landowners impacted individually and provide them with a timescale of the work which will be done outside their properties and the length of duration.
Fianna Fáil councillor Ann Marie Ahern and Fine Gael councillor Michael Hegarty questioned why Eirgrid had moved off the N25 corridor and the greenway (the old Midleton-Youghal railway line) for its cable ducting, suggesting using these routes would cause the least disruption to rural communities.
Eirgrid officials maintained the route they’d found was “the best performing” which would cause the least disruption, but admitted that they still have to reach conclusion with some private landowners on the compensation they will pay to duct the cables through their properties.