Grid25, EirGrid’s roadmap to uprate the electricity transmission grid by 2025, continues to be implemented so as to increase the capacity of the grid, to satisfy future demand, and to help Ireland meet its target of 40 per cent of electricity from renewable energy by 2020. EirGrid has recently stated that it expects the uprate to be delivered for significantly less than the €4 billion cost originally envisaged.
Recent months have seen projects such as the 110kV station at Lisdrum, the Blake- Maynooth-Newbridge 110kV line and the the Lodgewood 220kV station and loop in to the Arklow-Great Island 220 kV line completed. The uprating of the 220kV Killonan-Knockraha line, which was commissioned earlier this year, was done with a new conductor type on it. The project involved changing the existing conductor for a new high capacity conductor that increases the overall power transfer of the line by 50 per cent without having had to change any structures.
Circuit upratings and refurbishments are being completed on an on-going basis, as are the lodgement of planning applications for new projects. 300 kilometres of new circuit are expected to be connected in 2011/2012. By 2014 ten new 220kV sub- stations are expected to be completed. In total 2,000 out of the 6,500 kilometres of existing assets will be uprated during Grid25.
Aidan Corcoran, manager of the Grid25 programme office at EirGrid says there are two main reasons why the Grid25 strategy is expected to cost approximately 20 per cent less than the €4 billion originally projected. “The first is in terms of us optimising [the strategy] much closer. We’ve moved on since 2008 when the report was first published. We’ve looked at the projects again and optimised those projects in line with what’s happening out there in terms of wind strategies, in terms of demand, growth and those various scenarios – and that’s one of the elements that’s caused the reduction in cost. The second element is certainly the introduction of these new technologies like the high potential low spec conductors that we’re using. That’s been a big element to it as well.”
Reduced energy demand, as outlined in two scenarios in SEAI’s 2010 energy forecasts to 2020, and cheaper construction costs due to the economic downturn, are likely added reasons for the reduction in Grid25’s costs.
One of the six major projects in Grid25, the proposed inter-connector between Meath and Tyrone, has been delayed. In June last year EirGrid withdrew its planning application for the €400m project during An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing when an error in the public notice outlining plans to seek planning permission was noticed. Now the new Government has committed itself to establishing an independent expert commission to review the case for and cost of undergrounding all or part of the proposed line. The Minister has stated that the absence of a second north-south interconnector is imposing costs in the region of €20-30 million (and due to rise) each year for generators and consumers. EirGrid hopes to submit a new application later this year.
This is one of six projects that are key to the realisation of Grid25. Others include connection of renewable energy in the mid-west, connection from Moneypoint towards the Cork area, and the power infrastructure feeding into the Dublin area. These projects will take between five and ten years to complete.
There have been some difficulties due to opposition at local level to certain projects but Corcoran says there has generally been a positive reaction on the ground and a good relationship with stakeholders and landowners.
Corcoran says delivery of the infrastructure is vital to Ireland’s economic future, citing decisions by companies like Intel to expand in Ireland contingent on knowing there is a reliable transmission network.