As owners of land (to wit, a house and garden) which sits squarely in the centre of one of these corridors, we were invited to a session organised by Western Power Distribution recently for them to explain the proposals. Whilst it was helpful to see the lines on a larger scale map, there really wasn’t a lot to be said.
To be honest I’m not particularly exercised either way about the prospect of a few extra telegraph poles with wires strung between them crossing the field in front of the house, and I don’t really understand the demand from some quarters for the entire route to be placed underground. It would be visually better of course, and perhaps in some sections of the route which are particularly sensitive scenically it’s worth doing that. But the disruption of digging a deep trench through the area is not to be lightly dismissed either.
Some of the opposition seems to be more about fighting yesterday’s battles rather than about the line itself; a sort of rear-guard action against the wind farms. Making it impossible to connect them to the grid would certainly undermine the rationale for building them, but it’s a false hope and a misplaced campaign.
Some of the political opposition is less than honest as well; politicians who claim to be in favour of renewable energy and against fuel poverty doing their best to block renewable energy projects and increase the cost of the energy from those which are approved.
And there’s no small dishonesty either in the claims being made by some that putting the cables underground would cost no more than putting them overhead. I don’t know who’s doing their sums or where they get their figures. Western Power Distribution claim that the costs are £150,000 per kilometre for an overhead line and £986,000 per kilometre for an underground cable - six times as much. It’s possible – of course – that they’ve exaggerated the difference a little, but the difference doesn’t go away just by asserting that it doesn’t exist. And it isn’t just the installation cost which is different; digging up cables for repairs and renewal costs more than patching any overhead line.
Would I prefer that overhead lines never intruded on the view, anywhere? Yes, naturally. I want a nice clear view with no poles and wires. But I also want affordable electricity when I need it, and I want it from renewable sources. We can’t always have everything we want.