Electricity cable links UK and Irish grids
THE FIRST interconnector between the Republic and Britain was opened yesterday, connecting the power grids of the two countries.
The 500-megawatt cable can carry enough power to supply around 350,000 homes and will begin commercial operations on October 1st.
The east-west interconnector, built by EirGrid, goes from Co Meath to north Wales, and is designed to help ensure adequate and efficient power supply for the future. The connection can be used to export excess energy generated here to markets in Britain or to import it into the State.
The project involved electrical cable being laid in a trench beneath the Irish Sea between Rush in north Co Dublin, and Barkby beach in northern Wales.
A further 80km of cable was run over ground to link the connector to converter stations on either side of the Irish Sea, where the power is adapted to suit the relevant national energy grid.
The interconnector – reported to be the single biggest energy infrastructural investment since the commissioning of the hydroelectric Ardnacrusha power station in Co Clare 85 years ago – cost €570 million to build, 5 per cent under its €600 million budget.
EirGrid said this would be made up of a €110 million grant from the European Union, a €300 million loan from the European Investment Bank, some €60 million from EirGrid and a commercial loan from Barclays/BNP Paribas.
EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, who officially opened the interconnector at Batterstown, Co Meath, where it joins the Irish national grid, said the need for energy infrastructure development was one of the biggest energy challenges facing the EU.
“Ireland’s east-west interconnector will double electricity interconnection between the UK and Ireland and will provide a greater opportunity to trade electricity between the two markets,” he said. “It is a key part of building a single European energy market.
Commercial operation will begin on October.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was a historic day for the Irish energy market. “Ireland being a peripheral energy market makes this project a hugely significant one for us, for these islands and for Europe as a whole,” he said, noting its importance in ensuring security of supply of electricity.
“This new interconnector shows our commitment to European energy market integration, It shows too our ability to deliver projects to achieve that integration on time and on budget.”
EirGrid’s outgoing chief executive Dermot Byrne said the infrastructure “allows us to access energy from Britain and from across the European continent, which will result in more competition to the energy market and put downward pressure on prices”.
UK secretary of state for energy and climate change Edward Davey described the 186km cable as an impressive feat of engineering that would bring “multiple benefits” to both British and Irish economies.
The success in bringing the project in on time and under budget was welcomed by Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte.
“Delivering such projects on budget and on time is essential so as to keep consumer electricity prices as low as possible,” he said.
He added that the support of Europe had been very important in financing the project.
Testing on the cable has been ongoing since August 7th.
Another cable, the Moyle interconnector, already connects Islandmagee in Northern Ireland and Auchencrosh, Scotland. It too has a capacity of 500 megawatts. – (Additional reporting: Bloomberg)