REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 192

Revolt news 26/07/2005

1. Power lines and EMFs have been the subject of ten Parliamentary Questions (PQs) this year (four each from Labour and Conservative and others from Irish and Scots parties). The Draper study published in June prompted renewed interest. Written answers from Health Ministers refer to SAGE, the stakeholder advisory group considering precaution. Some 38 related PQs have been made from 2001 to the present, about half of them by Anne McIntosh MP for Vale of York. They can be seen at National Grid's web site 

2. The Country Landowners Association (CLA) has produced a policy document Renewable Energy - More than Wind, advocating the case for diverse "home grown" renewables. A press release is at APPENDIX 1. Interestingly, CLA call for a split in the Renewables Obligation for electricity, with a higher buy-out price for secure (non-intermittent) generation and a lower price for unreliable generation like wind. This is rather similar to our call (news184.1, 185.2) for re-classifying wind as non-renewable, and restricting the subsidies to a more limited range of Good Quality Wind Power. CLA also go on to call for a Renewable Heat Obligation and for a Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. Sensible. Worth reading. Worth doing!

3. The Beauly - Denny line proposed route has been announced. A formal application under Section 37 of the Electricity Act is to follow. APPENDIX 2 has a company press release and APPENDIX 3 has my first response (taking account of a company FAQ) as made to the Herald. The FAQ is too long for an appendix here, but I can forward it on request.

4. At the same time as the Beauly-Denny proposal is announced, the ESB proposal for a new 110 kV line in western Donegal has provoked a response from local objectors' group ATP. Their press release is at APPENDIX 4.

5. More progress with superconducting cables is reported in an article passed on by a SAGE colleague from Ofgem. The US Office of Electric Transmission and Distribution 

has produced a fact sheet about a 200 metre HTS cable demonstration project. The cable will be tested in use as an important electrical link in a utility substation in Columbus, Ohio, from 2006. The article and some extracts from the fact sheet are at APPENDIX 5.

6. Sir Richard Doll, until very recently chairman of AGNIR, the NRPB's advisory group, has died at the age of 92. My short comment is at APPENDIX 6. BBC news comment can be seen at 

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APPENDIX 1 CLA policy document.

Monday 11 July 2005: immediate release



The Government must grasp the 'once in a generation opportunity' to support the growth the of domestic renewable energy sector, says the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) on the release of its latest policy document: "Renewable energy - more than wind?" A new opinion poll1, commissioned by CLA, indicates that an incredible 78% of people would prefer to use renewable energy, rather than fossil fuels, to fuel their cars and to power their homes. An overwhelming majority (84%) would also prefer that the UK produced its own renewable energy rather than buying it in from abroad.

As the G8 climate change plans for the future sink in, the CLA argues that managing the reduction in greenhouse gases without endangering the economy is actually a wonderful opportunity to create jobs and investment for the UK - particularly in rural areas. CLA Head of Rural Economy, Oliver Harwood will be exhibiting the renewable energy policy at the annual conference of PRASEG, the Associate Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group on Tuesday 12 July.

CLA President Mark Hudson said, "All of us are confronted by a stark challenge - on current trends, the UK will miss its national greenhouse gas targets, unless energy efficiency improves and there is a significant and sustained development in renewable energy sources.

"We call on the Government to give practical help to a much broader- based renewable energy sector: wind power is not enough. At this turning point for UK agriculture there is an enormous opportunity, both for the economy and the environment, to boost our embryonic 'grown fuels' sector and to reduce our reliance on wind power to meet Kyoto targets.

"We're not making a special case: renewable energy provided by agriculture must, and does, stack up in economic and environmental terms. But if we want a future where people and businesses can opt to use biofuel produced from crops in their vehicles or to buy heat and electricity produced from biomass crops, then Government needs to make some changes to planning, taxation and grant aid and to the obligations it sets itself on the sources of energy."

The CLA policy document "Renewable energy - more than wind?" examines the opportunities presented by various UK sources of renewable energy including biomass, ground source heat, hydro, solar and wind. It offers practical recommendations for creating a thriving and broad-based renewable energy sector within the UK.



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APPENDIX 2 Press release on Beauly Denny line.

25 July 2005 Nr-5172


The proposed route for the 400,000 volt (400kV) overhead electricity transmission line which will replace the existing 132,000 volt (132kV) transmission line between Beauly, west of Inverness, and Denny, west of Falkirk, has been published.

Scottish Hydro-Electric Transmission Ltd (SHETL) and SP Transmission Ltd (SPT) will shortly submit applications to the Scottish Ministers, under Section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989, to construct and operate the line in their respective license areas.

The overall length of the proposed transmission line is 220km of which 203km falls within SHETL's licence area. The balance, of 17km falls within SPT's licence area.

The publication of the proposed route follows 18 months of public consultations held by the two companies, based on documents and draft routes published in January 2004 and in June 2004. A further period of formal consultation on the companies' proposals will take place in due course, in line with the procedure for considering Section 37 applications.

The Section 37 applications will be accompanied by an Environmental Statement which will be more than 2,600 pages and around 1.17 million words long. It will cover land use, forestry, agriculture and sporting interests, geology and soils, hydrology, ecology, landscape, visual effects, cultural heritage and archaeology, tourism and recreation, electric and magnetic fields and noise.

Colin Hood, Chief Operating Officer of Scottish and Southern Energy, of which SHETL is part, said: "It is clear that only the delivery of the necessary infrastructure will enable Scotland to achieve its renewable energy goals. Publishing this proposed route is an important step forward in our plans to modernise Scotland's electricity network and so facilitate the growth of renewable energy.

"Throughout the process of public consultation that we have undertaken, we have been working to ensure that we select the optimum route for the replacement line, recognising the concerns of local communities and based on environmental and technical studies of a high standard. We believe that we have achieved this goal."


Electronic images of maps of the proposed route are available from SSE's website

 or by contacting the Press Office on 0870 9000 410.

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APPENDIX 3 Response to announcement of Beauly-Denny line.

1. Revolt and this response.

1.1 Revolt is a national organisation concerned about energy policy and powerline matters. We recognise the need for secure electricity supplies and for transmission systems; we oppose unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development. Our position statement is on <>.

1.2 This response is from me as Chairman of Revolt, but is made in person without formal approval of Revolt or its committee.

1.3 Detailed responses will be made by people in the region of the proposed line. My response is confined to a few generic issues.

2. Need for the line.

2.1 The need for the line is an over-riding consideration, yet the energy policy which precipitates it is controversial. Many authorities have criticised the uncritical dash for wind power, which requires a larger volume of polluting bulk back-up on a UK scale to make up for its variability. Yet the question of energy policy, and the effectiveness or desirability of wind farms on a large scale, are likely to fall outside the scope of considerations of this line.

2.2 Nevertheless I would recommend, in the interests of transparency and democracy, that the need for the line be included in matters for consideration for s37 approval, and in any related public inquiry.

3. Health concerns.

3.1 On the health issue, it is pleasing that the proposal will reduce the number of households within 100 metres (compared with the exiting smaller line) to just 10.

3.2 The company notes refer to NRPB and ICNIRP guidelines, which are set only at exposure levels very much higher than those of evidence-based concern. However, concerns at lower exposures and the need for a precautionary approach are recognised, by the WHO and other bodies. The IARC has rated of electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) at the relevant levels as possible human carcinogens (category 2B).

3.3 The UK government recognises the need for precaution and has formed a stakeholder group SAGE (of which I am a member) which is working to produce practical recommendations. The 10 homes within 100 metres of the new line would fall within the scope of such precautionary consideration.

3.4 Where the home owners also own land crossed by the new line, they would be compensated for its presence, but not in respect of health concerns. Home owners whose land is not crossed by the new line would be entirely uncompensated. Therefore there is a case for compensating the 10 home owners in respect of the health concerns, which are real and evidence-based, not purely a figment of perception.

4. Undergrounding.

4.1 The company notes stress negative features of undergrounding. Experience in England has been that, when undergrounding is required and landowners' agreement is sought for it, the picture suddenly changes to one much more benign. the end result is practically invisible and crops are grown over the buried cables.

4.2 Having said that, the company quotes cost ratios more modest than those quoted by National Grid.

4.3 With a line of such length, it would be reasonable to expect a proportion of it, perhaps 10%, to be buried, and for the company to have a commensurate contingency budget. An important question would be what financial arrangements, however tentative, have been or may be considered by the company, the regulator or government, to provide for some undergrounding?

4.4 The case for undergrounding, in the most sensitive scenic areas and in any sensitive cases of homes very close to the line, should be examined closely and investigated by public inquiry.

5. The Cairngorms National Park.

5.1 The company claims of reduction in length of line and number of pylons within the national park must be considered against the increase in height and the intrusion into new ground. This will be for local communities to consider.

5.2 To be planning a new overhead line in a national park at all, notwithstanding the existing smaller line, is a serious enough matter to warrant a public inquiry. The case for undergrounding in this area, taking cost into account, should be examined in detail.

Response ends.

- Mike O'Carroll 25.7.05

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APPENDIX 4 Alternatives to Pylons Donegal and Coiste Timpeallachta Ghaoth Dobhair

Press Release 25/7/05

Alternatives to Pylons Donegal (ATP) and Coiste Timpeallachta Ghaoth Dobhair would like to respond to the ESB's full page advertisements published recently in the local papers.

In their promotion the ESB say that they have consulted with interested groups in Donegal - which interested groups have they met with? No meetings have taken place between the ESB and any environmental protection group in Donegal this year to date.

Several of the route colours marked on the published map were virtually the same, making it look like spaghetti junction and the map legend stating which route was which was totally illegible, making any consideration of their proposals impossible.

In their text the ESB have not specified which of these routes they are seeking planning permission for or if they intend to apply for planning permission for all eight routes listed?

We would like the ESB to state what is their criteria for choosing a route and we would ask them how they propose to install a 110kv line on a 38kv system (the sub- routes) and whether the proposed new sub-station is to be a 38kv or 110kv station and where exactly they are seeking to locate it?

The ESB state that initial engineering studies have taken place - are these available for public consultation? Who is carrying out the Environmental Impact Assessments for these routes?

The electrical supply problems in Killybegs are not addressed at all by the ESB in their proposals.

Nowhere have the ESB offered any alternatives to the overhead cables and 500 steel pylons which were rejected by An Bord Pleanála three years ago.

It would appear that the ESB have not taken into consideration the opinions of the many who objected previously - Have the ESB even read the options offered by electricity expert, Prof. Mike O'Carroll, who recently made a presentation to Donegal County Council?

A positive approach to environmental energy policy would promote reliable local generation via Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units and biomass rather than overhead cables and pylons.

Although it may be attractive from an engineering perspective, there is no need, even for the foreseeable longer term, to bring a 110 kV connection to west Donegal, in order to meet demand there or elsewhere in the County.

ESB's preferred option diverts the Binbane - Letterkenny 100 kV line to the west and adds a spur (or two) to Derrybeg. That would grossly over-provide for Derrybeg, with a capacity of 100 MW plus the 26 MW on the 38 kV line, to serve a demand of around 10 MW. Even when the factorys were full of workers in Gweedore the highest demand was for 16MV not 126MW as is presently proposed by the ESB. Surely this can only be to take power away from huge wind farm developments?

Why, for instance, is much of the route passing through Coilte forestry and mountainous areas? Is this to facilitate proposed wind farms rather than augment Donegal's electricity supply?

The questions of health, scenic and environmental destruction, land devaluation and loss of potential tourism revenue have yet to be addressed by the ESB.

Unless the ESB begin to operate in an open and transparent manner and consider the real importance of our natural environment their plans will fall short once again.


For further information see 

 or contact Alternatives to Pylons Donegal by email at <>

ATP have been campaigning to protect the Donegal environment since 1998. You can help by making a donation to the Appeal fund by sending a cheque or postal order to:

ATP GROUP, Account no. 82529441, Bank of Ireland, Dungloe, County Donegal

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APPENDIX 5 Notes on US superconducting developments.

Article: Utility to Operate Superconductor Transmission Cable

An order for 48,760 meters (approximately 30 miles) of high temperature superconductor (HTS) cable was recently ordered from Ulterato", a joint venture between Southwire Company, Carrollton, Ga. and nkt cables, Cologne, Germany. The superconductor wire was made by American Superconductor Corp. The finished transmission cable will serve the electrical distribution load fed from a large substation in Columbus, Ohio and will be operated starting in mid-2006 by American Electric Power (AEP).

The U.S. Department of Energy is providing half of the $8.65 million of funding for this cable demonstration project. When complete, the HTS cable installation is expected to supply power to approximately 8,200 residential and industrial AEP customers.

Says Kevin Kolevar, Director of DOE's Office of Electricity and Energy Assurance, "Superconductivity is one of several promising technologies that we expect to play a significant role in solving the nation's power grid problems. This project is a very important step in the development of new, high capacity HTS cables that are necessary to assure the security and reliability of the nation's power networks."


Extracts from US OETD fact sheet 2004 on Colombus HTS project.

What are the benefits to utilities?

HTS cable, carrying three to five times more power than conventional cable, can meet increasing power demands in urban areas via retrofit applications, eliminating the need to acquire new rights-of-way. The new cable design incorporated in this project has the potential to further reduce space requirements by running all three phases of a power line through a single cable. Power transmission in underground HTS cables can substitute for overhead transmission lines when environmental and other concerns prohibit overhead installation. Exceptionally low losses made possible by HTS cable will enhance overall system efficiency, increase flexibility, and reduce electricity costs.

What is the market potential?

Superconducting cables have the potential to create an efficient "electricity superhighway," much like the advent of fiber optic cable has aided the development of the "information superhighway."

Previous success.

The project builds on an earlier, very successful partnership between Southwire and DOE in which three 100-foot long cables were constructed and installed above ground in Carrollton, Georgia. These cables exceeded design goals by over 100 percent, and began delivering power to three Southwire manufacturing plants on February 18, 2000.

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APPENDIX 6 Short comment on Sir Richard Doll, until very recently chairman of AGNIR, the NRPB's advisory group on Non-Ionising Radiation.

Revolt will have seen Sir Richard Doll as an adversary on the subject of power-frequency electric and magnetic fields. He was correct in always accepting the possibility of their causing cancer, but we have quarrelled with what we argued was dismissive spin in some of the NRPB's reports and responses, including the important long report from AGNIR (Documents of the NRPB 12-1 of 2001).

Nevertheless, the words of one commentator speak also for me: "he was revolutionary in his approach, an absolute gentleman and exceedingly brilliant academically". But not infallible, as I reckon he would be the first to agree. Fallibility may come easy to those of us who enjoy mediocrity, but greatness does not bring immunity, and maybe it even brings susceptibility, as we see in other walks of life.

From what I heard in his Desert Island Discs appearance, he was quite a rebel himself. If he hadn't ascended to the establishment, he could be leading Revolt. I enjoyed our correspondence, and one or two chats over lunch, when even at a late age he remained both intellectually sharp and personally charming. His readiness to embrace new ideas may have lost the thrust of earlier decades, not least in respect of information (as distinct from energy) effects and recent work on melatonin and pro- oxidant stress, and the forum of AGNIR may have been insufficiently challenging for him.

The BBC web news item associates him with recognising the dangers of small-dose radiation, but ironically doesn't mention Alice Stewart. I was fortunate enough to enjoy discussion with her over dinner, not too long before she died at a similar age and also with great intellectual sharpness. What secrets do these epidemiologists have about longevity?

The BBC report says: "He caused a stir in 1973, aged 60, by saying that people aged over 65 should be prepared to accept death and not think of ways of preserving their lives for a few months. He claimed they should not expect National Health Service time and money to be spent on research into prolonging life. In fact, he went further and explained it was their social responsibility to 'live dangerously'." He seems to have had the last laugh on that one.

Adversary or not, and recognising he is too much out of my league for such an association, I can't help remembering him with affection.

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-- Mike O'Carroll




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