Mixed reaction to scaling back of €240m Grid West project

Reduction in wind generation in north Connacht removes need for contentious scheme

Last year An Bord Pleanála  approved a wind farm at Bellacorick in north Mayo which was reduced from 112 wind turbines to 61 turbines. File  photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Last year An Bord Pleanála approved a wind farm at Bellacorick in north Mayo which was reduced from 112 wind turbines to 61 turbines. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

EirGrid’s decision to scale back its €240 million Grid West transmission project has elicited a mixed reaction from business and community groups in the west.

Ireland’s electricity grid operator has decided that the contentious 400kV scheme proposed in 2012 is no longer needed “due to the lower than expected amounts of wind generation in the north Connacht region”.

This means renewable generation can now be connected through the development of a lower 110kV line, carried on poles.

EirGrid executives Rosemary Steen and John Fitzgerald promised to engage with landowners, communities and stakeholders on the new proposals.

“We genuinely believe it is in the best interests of many at this stage to pull the original project off the table and come back with a new proposal next year,” Ms Steen said.

Planning permission will be sought in 2019 for the revised project.

The future for the €240 million plan had been in doubt after An Bord Pleanála’s decision last year to approve a wind farm at Bellacorick in north Mayo which was reduced from 112 wind turbines to 61 turbines. The Oweninny Power project is a joint venture between the ESB and Bord na Móna.

Council for the West chairman Declan O’Callaghan, representing businesses in the region, said it was very disappointing as a lack of “top quality power” was a “disincentive to investment”.

“We are already dealing with issues relating to peripherality, so this is the last news we need,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

Western Development Commission acting chief executive Ian Brannigan said that “in the longer term it is important that the grid infrastructure of the western region is optimised for significant growth”.

“We acknowledge that all parties . . . are making significant efforts to secure a grid status that enables potential development capacity – perhaps as much as 60-80MW – to be realised in the Mayo and northwest region in the short term,” he said.

Individuals and groups opposed to a proposed pylon corridor stretching from Bellacorick to Flagford, Co Roscommon, expressed a mixture of relief and jubilation.

Cllr Seamus Weir left Fine Gael to run as an Independent in the last local elections on an anti-pylon stance.

“I feel 10ft tall,” Mr Weir said. “I am so happy for the communities that would have been blighted if the original proposal had gone ahead. The high voltage corridor would have tarnished some of the nicest scenery in the country.”

Martin Daly of the Moy Valley Protection Group, said he believed EirGrid had no choice but to change tack, in the light of the determined opposition to their proposal.

Michael Frain of Ballaghaderreen Against Pylons said he was “delighted EirGrid has finally taken heed of the objectors”.