Galway County Councillors have raised concerns about a planned €240 million investment in the electricity transmission system in the West.
At Monday’s council meeting, representatives from national electricity grid operator EirGrid informed councillors that it intends to begin public consultation on the Grid West scheme next year.
County Manager Martina Moloney said the project, which will be around 120km in length, is needed to sustain development in the region and take advantage of sustainable energy resources in the West.
EirGrid Regional Manager Deborah Meghen outlined that the project would facilitate the growth of renewable energy projects, including wind farms, in the region.
“Grid West will help the West attract investment that will lead to the creation of jobs, as high tech and pharmaceutical companies are heavily dependant on a good supply of electricity,” she said.
The project is at a very early state and a lead consultant will be appointed in the coming weeks to work on the initial engineering and environmental studies for the scheme, according to Ms Meghan.
She outlined that the planning and design phase of the project will take around four years and construction around three years, with an estimated completion date of 2019. She added that EirGrid’s intention is to submit a planning application to An Bord Pleanála in 2015, and that site offices would be located in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.
However, following Ms Meghan’s presentation on the scheme, councillors questioned why the project does not appear to take into consideration the potential for off-shore energy developments.
They also raised concerns about the project being constructed in a region filled with Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Cllr Seosamh Ó Cuaig said the council understands just how hard it is to undertake a development in such an area, given the difficulties surrounding the stalled Galway City Outer Bypass.
In response, Ms Meghen said that EirGrid is fully aware that the “challenging” issue of SACs would have to be addressed during the route selection process.
Cllr Tomás Ó Curraoin also expressed concern that pylons would be erected close to houses, and raised the issue of 65-year-old Offaly woman Teresa Treacy being jailed for contempt of court earlier this year after breaking an order ruling that EirGrid and the ESB could erect pylons on her land.
Responding to this, Ms Meghen said the pylons in question were necessary to complete a fundamental infrastructural investment for Tullamore worth €22 million, and that the situation was “hugely unfortunate” and a “terribly emotive” issue. She also said that EirGrid would seek to install power lines “as great a distance as possible” from houses, at least 40-50 metres away.
When questioned whether underground cabling could be used in the scheme, she said that, while it may be suitable for some sections of the route, it is hugely expensive.