The Kildare-Meath Grid Upgrade is a key project that will enable the country to achieve these goals.
The project is a high-capacity connection between Dunstown substation in Kildare and Woodland substation in Meath.
These two substations are the endpoints for two high-voltage power lines from Moneypoint in Clare, which are used to transport large volumes of renewable energy from the west across the country to the east coast.
The project will help to transfer this power more effectively and distribute it efficiently within the electricity network in Meath, Kildare and surrounding counties.
The development is essential in order to meet the Government’s climate action plan target of 70% renewable energy generation by 2030.
A significant number of Ireland’s electricity generators are in the south and southwest, where there are many wind farms.
The power they generate needs to be transported to where it is needed.
The Kildare-Meath Grid Upgrade will also help meet the growing demand for electricity in the east.
This growth is due to increased economic activity and the planned connection of new large-scale IT industry infrastructure in the region.
EirGrid last year wrote to 57,000 homes across the two counties seeking feedback on five technical solutions for the project.
The five options included connecting and ‘up-voltaging’ two existing 220kV overhead lines to 400kV; a new 220kV alternating current underground cable; a new 400kV alternating current underground cable; two 400kV alternating current underground cables along two separate routes.
Earlier this month, EirGrid announced that it had selected the single 400kV alternating current underground cable option for the project.
This followed extensive local engagement and a multi-criteria assessment, which resulted in the single underground cable emerging as the best-performing option.
EirGrid chief infrastructure officer Michael Mahon says: “When the consultation closed, we carried out a detailed review of all the submissions, which was then fed into our review and decision-making process.
“Earlier studies indicated that the ‘up-voltaging’ solution was the emerging best-performing option and the single 400kV alternating current underground cable was the best-performing alternative.
“When we studied the ‘up-voltaging’ option further, we found that to carry out the necessary works on the line would require longer outages.
“As a result, the existing lines would be out of service for longer periods and extend the timeline for delivering the project thus negatively impacting its assessment.
“We examined the single underground 400kV cable further by undertaking more in-depth studies and found that it could be constructed in a narrower trench than we had considered before. This would result in a more efficient construction timetable.”
The underground cable will be installed along the public road network where possible between Dunstown, south of Naas in Kildare, and Woodland outside Batterstown in Meath, a distance of approximately 50km.
Where significant constraints and potential impacts arise, EirGrid will consider alternative and localised off-road options.
Any localised options will be considered following engagement with stakeholders, communities and landowners to establish a preferable and acceptable option.
Woodland substation is also the endpoint for another major electricity infrastructure project, the North-South Interconnector.
Like the Kildare Meath Grid Upgrade, it too will be developed using 400kV technology. However, it will be developed using overhead lines.
Mr Mahon explains: “Each underground cable project is unique and its technical feasibility must be determined on a case-by-case analysis.
“A 400kV alternating current underground solution has been examined for the North-South Interconnector, but was found to be not technically feasible.
“A cable of this length between Woodland and Turleenan, a distance of 138km, would breach safety standards. This has been confirmed by independent studies.”
According to Mr Mahon, further analysis confirmed that approximately 10km is the maximum technically feasible distance for the North-South Interconnector when using alternating current underground 400kV cables in order to maintain grid safety standards.
“A further review of the North-South Interconnector technical analysis was completed as part of the analysis for the Kildare-Meath Grid Upgrade.
“This confirmed that 10km remains the maximum length of the interconnector that could be undergrounded in order to comply with our standards and to keep the electricity system safe and secure.
“The network infrastructure surrounding Dublin is particularly strong and is supported by the two 400kV overhead lines at either end of the Kildare-Meath Grid Upgrade. This means that undergrounding 400kV cables for approximately 50km is possible in this part of the grid network,” he adds.
EirGrid is currently in the middle of a national consultation on shaping our electricity future, which details innovative approaches to developing the grid in order to meet the 2030 renewable energy targets.
Shaping Our Electricity Future comprises four approaches to achieving this, as well as meeting the projected increase demand for electricity over the coming years. They are:
Mr Mahon says: “Each of the four approaches requires numerous investments in network development projects throughout the country, with costs of up to €2bn.
“There are some foundation projects that are common to all four approaches and the final plan is likely to include elements of all approaches, strongly led by one of them.”
In the meantime, the Kildare Meath Grid Upgrade project now moves into step four of EirGrid’s six-step process for developing grid projects. This involves identifying where exactly the project should be built.
Over the coming months, the project team will develop route options between the two substations and seek feedback on them. It is anticipated this round of consultation will take place from September for a 12-week period.
Michael Mahon adds: “The responses to last year’s consultation will help us plan and manage our consultation and engagement in the next step of the project.
“We are grateful to everyone who provided feedback and look forward to the next phase of engagement on this key project.”