On Thursday, with officials from both nations attending, the first electricity connector between Ireland and Britain was opened. The 500 mW East-West Interconnector – developed by Irish transmission system operator Eirgrid – links Deeside in North Wales with Ireland’s County Meath.
The connection cost €570 million to build, 5 % under its €600 million budget. It is reported to be the single biggest energy infrastructural investment that has been done in Ireland since the commissioning of the hydroelectric Ardnacrusha power station in Co Clare 85 years ago. The cable connecting the two sides of land is approximately 260 km in length, and the underground and undersea link has the capacity to power 300,000 homes through it’s 500 mW.
There is already an existing interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland; the HVDC Moyle which went into service in 2001. It also has a capacity of 500 mW, bringing the total capacity for electricity imports to Britain from across the Irish Sea to 1,000 mW. The United Kingdom has electricity interconnectors with France and the Netherlands as well. Plans are on-going to set up interconnectors with Norway, Spain and Iceland.
In July 2012, 14.8% of Irish electricity was being generated from renewable sources, up from 5% in 1990. Wind is the main source of renewable energy production in the country. In the UK only 3% of the electricity comes from renewable sources. The interconnector will export any surplus electricity from Irish wind power to help the UK increase the amount of renewables to help them reach the environmental targets set by the EU.
UK Energy secretary Ed Davey said Ireland was one of the few countries in the EU likely to generate more renewable energy than it needed to meet its targets, presenting opportunities for trading.
Trading on the interconnector will start on October 1st 2012.
See here a short film about the interconnector by construction corporation ABB