Connecting the Irish and British energy markets
The Lewek Connector began her maiden voyage from Rush Harbour, north of Dublin on the east coast of Ireland. The vessel eased out of harbour carrying her crew of 100 and loaded with the heavy, cumbersome cables that would connect two nations. Over the next few weeks and months, the ship and her crew would wedge, lay and install those cables beneath the sea; the resulting connection would span the 186 km from Rush Harbour to Barkby Beach in North Wales. Once completed, the 262-km, HVDC EirGrid East West Interconnector would link the Irish and British electricity markets.
EirGrid, the owner and operator of the project, hired RSK to provide its formal scoping opinion and undertake an environmental impact assessment for the whole of the marine cable route, from the high-water mark in Ireland to the high-water mark in Wales.
After consulting with the regulators, RSK was able to confirm to EirGrid that statutory environmental statements were not required. Instead, RSK produced two non-statutory environmental reports; the first for the section of the cable from the high-water mark in Ireland out to the median line and the second from there to the high-water mark in Wales. Potential ecological impacts were the main environmental concerns. Although the cable route would not traverse designated sites, it would skirt several European and international areas of special interest and of conservation. Other potential effects were on shipping and commercial fisheries. Accordingly, RSK completed a range of baseline studies, assessed likely impacts and outlined mitigation measures to reduce impacts on key environmental and socio-economic features during the construction and operation of the cable.
The cable route on Irish territory was subject to official oral hearings. RSK provided staff to present expert testimony to An Bord Pleanála, which later granted full permission for the project. A similar process on the British side resulted in the Welsh regulators providing their consent in late 2009. The cable is now operating and generating economic and social benefits for the two states.