What was new at your autumn 2016 consultation?
We’ve chosen a tunnel as the best way to go under the Menai Strait and identified areas where we could put the equipment we need to change from overhead to underground. At around 4km long, the tunnel is beyond the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and means our equipment is further back from the coast and further away from communities.
The route for the new overhead line is close to the existing line. This means we can take a direct route, keeping away from larger communities and avoiding putting pylons into new areas. We’ve also chosen a similar lattice pylon as the existing line. We think this is the best option to reduce visual effects as it won’t introduce contrasting shapes into the landscape.
We think our proposals are the best way to keep effects on the landscape, tourism, communities, cultural heritage and the wider environment as low as we can, while also providing a connection that offers value for bill payers.
How have you considered the impact your work could have on tourism?
We fully recognise how important tourism is to the region and the economy, and it’s something we’ve considered at every stage of our work.
By keeping the second line close to the existing line, we stay away from the coast which is especially popular with tourists. It also avoids the largest towns and villages, heritage sites and landscapes that attract visitors.
At the Menai Strait, our choice of a tunnel extends inland away from the coastal area. This means we are outside the AONB and away from Plas Newydd and the Vaynol Estate – all areas that are popular with visitors.
This found that 93 percent of people felt there had been no negative impact on their business as a result of new infrastructure, and 83 percent of people felt there had been no impact on the local area as a result of new infrastructure.
Why do you need a second connection, can’t you use the existing line?
Wylfa Newydd will generate nearly three times as much power as the existing Magnox power station.
To carry all that power securely to the homes and businesses that need it, we need to use the existing line and build a second connection. Wylfa Newydd will use both lines.
Why can’t you put the whole connection underground?
We know many people would prefer us to put the whole connection underground and we have looked carefully at this option.
We recognise the visual benefits of putting the whole connection underground, but this needs to be balanced alongside other considerations like cost.
Putting the whole connection underground between Wylfa and Pentir would cost over one billion pounds. This is hundreds of millions of pounds more expensive than our preferred option. We have to make sure our work offers value for money because our costs are passed on to all of us through our energy bills.
Underground construction is also very disruptive and needs a continuous working width of typically 65m, about the width of a football pitch. This is likely to have more effect on cultural heritage, ecology, archaeology and land use when compared to building pylons.
Because of the cost and technical considerations we only typically put underground cables in areas that are protected by designations such as AONBs, like the Menai Strait, or very visually sensitive areas such as the Glaslyn Estuary in Porthmadog.
Why can’t you put the existing line at the Menai Strait in the same underground tunnel you are digging for the new one?
When a new electricity generator asks to connect our network we must develop that connection in line with a number of conditions that are set and regulated by the government. This includes providing a connection that meets the generator’s needs and that offers value for money for consumers, as the costs of the connection are passed on to all of us in our electricity bills. Because of these conditions, we can’t extend our project beyond the work that’s needed to connect the new energy generator. In North Wales, this means we’re not able to fund undergrounding of the existing line as part of the project as it’s not a necessary part of making the new connection for Wylfa Newydd.
But we know how valued the Menai Strait and Anglesey AONB are which is why we’ve committed to undergrounding the new connection here.
You’re taking down pylons in Snowdonia and putting the line underground, why can’t you do the same on Anglesey?
The work to put some of the overhead lines underground near Porthmadog is being looked at as part of the Visual Impact Provision Project (VIP). The project has a £500 million allowance made available by Ofgem to reduce the visual impact of sections of overhead lines in some of our most sensitive landscapes.
The overhead lines in Snowdonia were put up in the 1960s. Planning guidance was very different then and the priority was getting power to homes and businesses.
The Menai Strait is an example of a really sensitive and highly valued landscape which we cannot avoid. That’s why we’ve committed to putting the second connection underground here.
Why aren’t you putting the current overhead line across the Menai Strait underground as part of the VIP project?
The VIP project has been led by its independent Stakeholder Advisory Group which includes representatives from organisations including the CPRW, Cadw, Natural Resources Wales, National Parks Wales, Natural England, National Trust and Visit Wales.
To decide which shortlisted locations were taken forward, each one went through a detailed review and analysis process. The line in Snowdonia, near Porthmadog was one of the projects taken forward because it falls within a National Park.
The Welsh Government has confirmed a third bridge is going ahead and construction could start by 2021. Can’t you put the connection on this?
We have been in discussions for some time with the Welsh Government to understand its plans for a third Menai Bridge. As these plans develop, we’ll continue to review our proposals. But until there is a final design with funding and permission confirmed for the third Menai Bridge project, we have to progress with our current proposals to connect Wylfa Newydd.
If more energy generation is proposed, will you need a third line of pylons?
There is nothing to suggest a third connection is needed.
We’re only able to consider energy generation for projects that have a connection agreement with us. If there is more energy generation in North Wales and more developers approach us for connection agreements, we would then need to look at the best way of connecting that energy to the electricity network. All the energy currently being proposed can be accommodated on the existing overhead line and the second connection that we are proposing.
What does it mean now that Orthios has a connection agreement with you?
In December 2015 Orthios completed the purchase of the Anglesey Aluminium works on Anglesey. The Orthios Eco Park will include a biomass power station and it now has a connection agreement with us to supply the power it will generate to the national electricity grid.
The biomass power plant will generate a much smaller amount of power than Wylfa Newydd so we’ll only need to do a small amount of work to accommodate this extra power. This will include some additional equipment at our Wylfa substation and some work on the existing 132kV overhead line from Holyhead to Wylfa.
How long will it take to build the connection?
In total, we think the construction stage would take four to five years, with additional time to undertake planting and other measures to help restore the land.
We are likely to be working on different sections along the route at different times so wouldn’t be working on the whole connection all of this time. Some sections we will start and finish earlier on in the construction process, while others we will start and finish towards the end. Given its complexity, the tunnel will take the longest to build and we will be working on this throughout the construction stage.
What roads will construction traffic use and how will you reduce the risk of congestion?
To provide access for vehicles, we’re proposing to use the A55, A5, and A5025 as these are the main roads which are closest to our work. We’ll also need to use suitable smaller rural roads off the main road network so we can get to the sites where we'll build our equipment.
Most of the equipment we need will be transported on lorries (HGVs). We’ll also need vans and cars to take workers to and from site. Some larger vehicles will be required to deliver specific materials, such as the cables for the tunnel, which come on large cable drums.
In order to identify suitable construction traffic routes, we’ve considered how we can best reduce effects on all road users, including local people and tourists.
We’re working closely with local county councils, North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency, Welsh Government and other relevant bodies to get their feedback on which routes would offer the best opportunities to reduce effects on the area.
What construction traffic will there be from your work at the Menai Strait?
To dig the tunnel, we will need some specialist equipment. Some of this equipment needed is large and heavy and may require larger vehicles to deliver it and take it away from the tunnel site. These vehicles would be larger and move much slower when compared to normal HGVs and for safety purposes may require escort vehicles. However, we would only need a small number of these.
To construct the tunnel, we will need to remove many thousands of tonnes of rock and soil. We will also need to deliver lots of materials to site such as aggregates and concrete linings. This will require a lot of HGV journeys to and from the tunnel site. However, the tunnel construction will take place over a number of years and the number of HGV journeys each day will be spread out.
To further help reduce any inconvenience for local road users, we would also look at a number of measures. These would include, for example, timing restrictions on journeys to avoid busy periods such as the morning and afternoon rush hours.
When do you pay compensation to people for the work you carry out?
Where our equipment directly crosses private property, we enter into a legal agreement with the landowner for which one off or annual payments are made in exchange for land use and access for maintenance.
Is there compensation if there is an impact on house prices?
When we develop a new connection, we always try to avoid communities and individual properties as much as possible. We talk regularly with local residents so their comments can influence the design of the new connection and to help reduce any uncertainty. We also carry out regular reviews of our design to assess what effects there may be and if there are other options.
We’ve worked hard to do this in developing the second connection for Wylfa Newydd and feel the design we’ve put forward limits the number of properties close to our work. We only pay compensation if our equipment is placed on land or crosses it, but we know that people have concerns about the effect of our work on property. We’re committed to continuing to work with property owners to see if there are ways to further reduce any effects of our proposals. We’re always happy to hear from property owners and would encourage anyone with concerns regarding their property to talk to our team so your comments can be considered.
What are Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs)?
Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) are produced from all electrical equipment, including overhead lines and the electrical appliances you find in your home.
EMFs are around us wherever electricity is used. If a piece of equipment has a higher voltage, it will produce a bigger electric field. And if something has more current running through it, it will have a bigger magnetic field.
Do EMFs have any impacts on health?
No negative health effects relating to exposure to EMFs have been found.
But, despite 30 years of research, there is still some uncertainty among scientists on this subject. We fully understand people may have concerns about EMFs and take this very seriously. We follow all guidance on safe levels of exposure to EMFs given by the government and independent organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO).
Making sure that the public, local communities and our employees are safe is at the heart of our work.
What’s happening after your 2016 consultation?
After the consultation, we’ll review our proposals together with your feedback and our own assessments, including to see if there are ways we can further reduce the effects.
When we’re happy the proposals are ready, we’ll prepare our application and the supporting documents. These will include a Consultation Report, to explain how we’ve taken your views into account; and an Environmental Statement, which will explain the likely environmental effects of our proposals.
We will then submit our application to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, via the Planning Inspectorate. We expect this to be in late 2017, depending on the outcome of the consultation.
If Wylfa Newydd is delayed, would your project be delayed?
We’re only able to plan for the timescales that we have available. Horizon plans for Wylfa Newydd to start generating electricity by the mid 2020s so we have to be ready to provide a connection by then.
If for any reason Horizon’s timescales changed, we would need to review our own timescales in co-ordination with them.
What opportunities are there for careers with National Grid?
We want to inspire people in North Wales, and around the UK, to become the next generation of engineers. We also want to make a difference to the areas we work in by working closely with schools and youth groups.
Through school visits, our apprentice programme and educational resources we’re enabling thousands of people to realise their potential in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers that will benefit them, their communities, our economy and all of society. We’re already carryingout a range of activities with schools and community groups in North Wales.
Whether you’re looking for an apprenticeship, you’re a graduate or have already started your career; we’re always looking for talented individuals to join our team.You can find out more at careers.nationalgrid.com
Will your work create any jobs or opportunities for local businesses?
We’re part of Anglesey’s Energy Island Programme, which is aiming to put Anglesey at the forefront of low carbon energy development.
Isle of Anglesey County Council estimates that the programme could contribute £12 billion to the Anglesey and North Wales economy over the next 15 years. This could bring major economic, social and environmental gains for all of Anglesey and the wider North Wales region.
At National Grid, we work with some of the best companies, big and small, all around the UK, ensuring our work meets the high standards the country expects.
The scale of our projects means that there are great opportunities for local businesses while we’re working in an area.
Whether it’s subcontracting construction works, plant hire or accommodation and catering, our projects bring a positive boost to local economies. As well as benefits for businesses, this can also result in new job opportunities.