Power Lines and Grids – Up to date

Synopsis of Info on Pylons/Powerlines and Wind Energy from Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources

Grid25

 

  • Rebuilding the economy, attracting and retaining foreign investment, creating jobs and growth all depend on safe and secure energy supply
  • Grid25 will develop and upgrade the electricity transmission network, taking several years to complete at an investment of €3.2 billion.
  • This involves building 800km of new power lines and upgrading 2,000 km of existing lines – double the size of today’s grid.
  • Putting infrastructure in place to enable us to use our own natural resources, helps us reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels, create less carbon waste and reach renewable energy our targets
  • The Government will retain the electricity networks in State ownership as strategic infrastructure, to ensure they are developed and maintained.
  • Public acceptance and understanding of the need for new infrastructure is critical. This requires confidence that the highest international standards of health, safety, environmental and visual impact and technology are adhered to.
  • The planning process will ensure necessary standards are met and that comprehensive statutory and non-statutory consultation is built into the process.
  • The Government underlines its commitment to early, transparent engagement and consultation with local communities and stakeholders.
  • The Government does not direct EirGrid to particular sites, or routes, or technologies. The Government does expect EirGrid, to take account of international best practice, ensure value for money, and be informed by detailed consultation at local level.
  • The Government fully supports a “community gain” approach in the delivery of energy infrastructure

Health and safety

  • Both EirGrid and ESB are very aware of the potential health effects of electromagnetic fields, including those emitted by mobile phones and masts, wireless broadband, and radio and television transmitters
  • EirGrid designs and operates its network to the highest safety standards and complies with up-to-date national and international guidelines.
  • There has been more than 30 years of international research into electromagnetic fields (EMF). No research has ever concluded that exposure to EMF from overhead power lines are a cause of long-term adverse effects on human, plant or animal health. This includes WHO research (2007) on the biological effects of exposure to Extremely Low Frequency fields – which concluded that there are no substantive health issues related to ELF electric fields at levels generally encountered by the public[1].
  • This position was re-stated by the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser in a report into possible health effects of exposure to electric and magnetic fields (2010):‘It is simply not possible for the level of energies associated with power lines to cause cancer’.[2]
  • All scientific, peer reviewed studies the Government is aware of conclude that EMFs have no detectable effects on animal health, milk production, fertility, animal behaviour or carcass quality.

 

Undergrounding” vs. overhead power lines

 

  • A review into the cost and case for “undergrounding” all or part of the Meath-Tyrone 400 kV power link concluded that there is no single “right” solution, but it did recommend against wholly undergrounding an alternating current cable.
  • The review estimated that the cost of implementing a high voltage direct current underground cable would be three times the cost of the traditional overhead line option

Wind energy export framework

  • The EU Renewable Energy Directive set targets for renewable energy for each member state, also offering a co-operation mechanism to allow one country to contribute to another country’s targets.
  • Ireland can achieve renewable electricity targets with capacity to spare, offering potential for export. Our offshore wind resource could be developed as an export opportunity.
  • This opportunity to harness renewable energy for the export market is being pursued with the UK Government.
  • The amount of energy to be bought by the UK is under discussion; however, a figure of at least 3 GW has been referenced by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. Employment from a 3 GW project would be 3,000 to 6,000 in the construction phase, €1 billion of spending on civil engineering works over 2 to 3 years, and additional jobs in on-going maintenance of turbines over a 20-year operating life.
  • There are also significant interconnection benefits that would enhance security of supply, allow for increased intermittent wind generation and facilitate a single European energy market.
  • The Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework will be prepared over the next year. It allows all stakeholders, including local authorities, potential project developers and local communities, to be consulted and to have an input.
  • This will be underpinned by an Environmental Report integrating relevant EU requirements for Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment. The initial phase of public consultation began on the 23rd October.
  • The public and interested parties are invited to make written submissions, including on relevant environmental issues to be addressed in the Environmental Report and Natural Impact Statement to accompany the draft framework. The initial consultation will close on Friday 22nd November at 17:30.
  • Separately the Department of the Environment, the Department of Energy and SEAI are working on a review of the Wind Energy Guidelines published under the Planning Acts. These apply to all wind farm development in Ireland.
  • This review will examine the manner in which the guidelines address key issues such as noise (including separation distance) and “shadow flicker”, and draft guidelines are expected shortly for public consultation, with finalised guidelines expected by mid-2014.