Replacement underwater cables for the faulty Moyle Interconnector will be “stronger and more conventional”, it has been claimed.
The two existing cables – which run from Ayrshire and Islandmagee – provide a vital electricity link between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
But Moyle has been plagued by a series of faults in recent years, and has been operating at half capacity (250MW) since 2012.
As a long-term solution to the ongoing problem, Moyle owners Mutual Energy Limited (MEL) now plan to install two new cables in a bid to bring the interconnector back up to 500MW.
Members of the public attended an information event in Islandmagee recently, where MEL laid out it plans for the repair of the interconnector.
Speaking at the event, group operations manager for MEL Stephen Hemphill told the Times: “The existing cables had a pioneering design, in that they each contained both low voltage and high voltage elements.
“However, all the faults we have experienced have occurred in the low voltage element.
“We now intend to remove the reliance on that part of the cables by installing two new low voltage cables within 100m of the existing ones.”
According to MEL, these new cables will be “of a more conventional and stronger design”.
The cables will be buried at a depth of 1-2 metres below the sea bed, and the proposed landfall sites for the will be located at the existing landfall at Portmuck.
MEL has commissioned consultancy firm Intertek to carry out an environmental report into the potential impact of the cable installation and operation.
Eric Houston from Intertek said the repair work was designed to avoid sensitive habitats, ship wrecks and potential unexploded ordnance.
He also claimed that any disturbance to species such as bird and marine mammals would be “localised and temporary”.
Mr Houston added that electromagnetic fields produced by the new cables were not expected to have any adverse effects on marine ecology or shipping and navigation in the area.
Furthermore, it is anticipated there “no permanent adverse impact” on the fishing industry, according to the consultant.
Larne Councillor Michael Lynch, who attended the public information event, said: “Once these repairs have been completed and the interconnector is back to full capacity, it will help ensure the security of electricity supply for people in Northern Ireland.”
A marine licence is required from the Department for the Environment before the project can proceed, and MEL hopes to lodge this application in the coming weeks.
It is estimated the repair work could be completed by 2016/17.