EirGrid is a state-owned company and the national operator of the electricity grid. The national grid is an interconnected network of high-voltage power lines and cables, comparable to the motorways, dual carriageways and main roads of the national road network. The high-voltage network is operated at three voltage levels, 400 kV (kilovolts), 220 kV and 110kV, and is approximately 6,400km in overall length. It is the backbone of Ireland’s power system and is vital to ensuring that all customers (industrial, commercial and residential in rural and urban areas) have a safe, secure, reliable, economic and efficient electricity supply. Grid25 is EirGrid’s major initiative to put in place a safe, secure and affordable electricity supply throughout Ireland, supporting economic growth and utilising our renewable energy resource to its maximum potential. Development of the grid is essential to provide a platform for renewed economic growth and regional development and is vital if we are to effectively tap into our abundant renewable energy resources. [login type="readmore"] Grid25 will involve upgrading the high-voltage system in an overall investment of approximately €3.2 billion in the period up to 2025. This new infrastructure is every bit as essential to the future growth of the country as any investment in road, rail and broadband. GRID WEST PROJECT [caption id="attachment_9299" align="alignright" width="1200"] EirGrid 400KV tower[/caption] The €240 million Grid West project is one of Grid25’s major projects and will develop a new high-capacity power line. The emerging preferred route corridor links North Mayo to Flagford in County Roscommon, where there is a grid node. By connecting the electricity generated by the region’s huge renewable energy resources, the Grid West project will facilitate significant job creation and investment. It will contribute to national recovery and growth, allowing the region to attract inward investment that requires a strong reliable source of power. EirGrid announced the emerging preferred route corridor for the Grid West project in October. The 1km wide corridor, which will accommodate the new power line, starts north west of Moygownagh, runs west of Ballina, east of Foxford and Swinford, south of Charlestown and Ballaghaderreen before linking into the existing Flagford substation, near Carrick-on-Shannon. Changes were made to this corridor based on feedback received along with further technical studies, and other feedback will be considered as a line within this corridor is designed over the coming months. EirGrid also announced that there are some changes to the planned substation in the Bellacorick area of North Mayo. The 400kV power line will run from the existing Flagford substation near Carrick-on-Shannon to a proposed new substation in North Mayo, approximately 2.5km north west of Moygownagh. The connection of this new substation to the existing regional 110kV network will now be subject to further technical studies and subsequent consultation once the studies have been completed. PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND CONSULTATION In May 2012, Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD launched the Grid West project. At that time, a map of the Grid West general study area, which was identified as suitable for the renewable energy project, was published. During summer 2012, the Grid West project team started gathering as much information as possible to inform and shape the project. Through a series of public consultation activities, the local communities were informed about the plans and encouraged to give feedback and share their valuable local knowledge of the area to allow the team to start mapping constraints. During summer 2012, the Grid West project team examined a wide range of environmental and other considerations that could influence or constrain the identification of corridors within which proposed future transmission lines would be routed. Constraints like heritage sites, national monuments, areas designated for conservation, towns, villages and communities and all existing infrastructure like transmission lines, roads, and railways were published in a Constraints Report, which was again presented for public consultation in September 2012. The most recent consultation round took place in March 2013, when EirGrid published the Stage 1 Report which, based on all the feedback and mapped constraints, contains a number of indicative 1km wide corridors, which could accommodate the new transmission line. The Grid West project team invited the general public to give their further input and comments on the report. On 7 October 2013, EirGrid announced the emerging preferred route corridor for the Grid West project (below). The 1km wide corridor starts north west of Moygownagh, runs west of Ballina, east of Foxford and Swinford, south of Charlestown and Ballaghaderreen before linking into the existing Flagford substation, near Carrick-on-Shannon. [caption id="attachment_9294" align="aligncenter" width="2167"] EirGrid's emerging preferred route corridor for the Grid West project (click to enlarge)[/caption]

Sean Meagher C Eng MIEI, senior project manager, Grid West project, stressed the importance of all-inclusive early stakeholder engagement. “All Grid25 projects, including Grid West, follow a schematic project development and consultation roadmap,” he said. “This is to allow the stakeholders to follow the development process for an EirGrid transmission project through the various steps to construction and ensure the public is fully aware of how they can participate in the consultation process.” Meagher’s experience includes some of Ireland’s largest electricity infrastructure projects, including the East West Interconnector. He has a BSC (Eng) from Trinity and ME (Mgmt) from UCD. He is a chartered member of Engineers Ireland.

Apart from the traditional communications channels, such as a lo-call number, a project email, postal address and project website, the Grid West project team also set up a local Information Centre in Castlebar, which is accessible to the public two days a week, in addition to the recruitment of an independent community liaison officer. “To date, EirGrid has received a lot of feedback from groups and individuals and continues to welcome high stakeholder involvement in the project in its efforts to engage in an all-inclusive consultation,” Meagher added. GRID WEST AND THE LOW-CARBON ECONOMY The Grid West project will connect the region’s huge renewable energy resources onto the national grid. The project will facilitate significant job creation and investment through construction and maintenance of wind farms and other renewable energy sources and will make the north west region more attractive for inward investors. The Industrial Development Agency Ireland has commented that the foreign direct Investment sector is a major contributor to the Irish economy, and energy infrastructure is a critical component in the overall value proposition Ireland provides to multinational corporations. “In recent times, Ireland has been very successful in attracting investments across many sectors – particularly in the IT and pharmaceutical sectors,” said Meagher. “These companies require a strong, secure electricity supply. The provision of additional electricity capacity is vital to attracting these high-value investments.” Grid West, as part of the Grid25 project, is not only vital for the country’s future energy, but it will also help ensure that Ireland has the best possible platform in terms of world-class competitive and sustainable electricity system to meet the needs of new and current clients. Grid25 is an essential infrastructure initiative to facilitate reliable secure and affordable electricity supplies throughout Ireland. Without it, within the next five-to-ten years, key parts of the grid will have reached capacity and will be in danger of overloading, which would have in impact on power supply. “The Grid West project will enable the west region to develop its full potential in attracting new high-tech industry and to accommodate population growth,” Meagher concluded. “A significant portion of the € 240 million investment will be made in the western region providing direct and indirect employment for the north west. The total budget of Grid25 nationwide investment is estimated at €3.2 billion between 2010 and 2025.” For further information on the Grid West project, check out the website or contact the project team on 1890 980 402. An information centre is also open on Linenhall Street in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Text updates on the project are available and a community liaison officer is active among communities in the west of Ireland.