Construction work on the €1.6 billion Celtic Interconnector, a 575km electricity interconnector between Ireland and France, is expected to commence within months, according to EirGrid CEO Mark Foley. The interconnector will link Ireland with Brittany, coming ashore at Youghal in east Cork, and will allow Irish electricity producers to sell their energy to the French market and buy from French suppliers. It aims to deliver greater energy security and lower prices to Irish consumers, while also enabling the exchange of more renewables between the two countries. Foley sees the project as the signature project of the Irish State in this decade and a flagship project for European connectivity.
Speaking in Cork at the opening of Eirgrid’s first office outside of Dublin, Foley said that interconnection is hugely important as it improves security, allows more renewables to pass back and forth between countries, and helps reduce prices. He added that with the interconnector, Ireland is expected to export more energy than it imports. It will allow 700 MW of energy to move between the two countries, with 65% of the flows predicted to be Ireland to France and 35% France to Ireland.
The project, in partnership with French utility company RTE, has been through the planning process and secured funding, with the final agreements signed last November in Paris by then Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Foley said the project will take about 2½ years to complete, with electricity flowing on a test basis in 2026 for a couple of months before the system becomes fully operational. The project will run from Brittany around Cornwall and come out of the sea at Youghal, with a converter station at Ballyadam between Midleton and Carrigtwohill.
At the signing ceremony last November, it was revealed that the project will allow for the import and export of enough electricity to power 450,000 homes. Cork East Fine Gael TD David Stanton said that with offshore wind in place, Cork could become the “Saudi Arabia of Europe in respect of energy and power.” With Ireland aiming to produce 80% of its energy from renewables by 2030, of which 90% will come from wind power, the Celtic Interconnector project aims to make Ireland the ‘Saudi Arabia of Europe for offshore wind’.