Birds foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus – a native ‘High Nature Value’ flowering plant in the EWIC meadow

Biodiversity Initiatives

1. EirGrid is delivering a biodiversity enhancement project at the site of the East West Interconnector (EWIC) converter station in Co Meath

What is EWIC?

The East West Interconnector (EWIC), connects the electricity transmission grids of Ireland and GB and is key national infrastructure, facilitating increased renewables operation and decarbonising the transmission systems. EirGrid owns and operates EWIC, managed in partnership with Hitachi ABB Power Grids. The EWIC asset is 260 km in length, 186 km of which is beneath the Irish Sea. The asset includes onshore Converter Stations in Ireland (Portan, County Meath) and Great Britain (Shotten, North Wales).

What is the EWIC Biodiversity Project?

At the Portan Converter Station site, approximately four hectares of the seven hectare site is dominated by an unmanaged grassland meadow, with intensely managed amenity grassland areas, and a small area of native woodland plantation also present.

EirGrid is funding an evidence-based approach to biodiversity enhancement at the Portan site during a three year pilot project. Iterative stakeholder engagement with the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), Meath County Council, and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland has been and will continue to be central to deciding management actions, such as a ‘low intervention’ management approach, in lieu of habitat creation.

What works has EirGrid carried out to date?

EirGrid’s ecologist designed an outline botanical monitoring programme to measure the effect of changes to the mowing regime on meadow plant diversity. Wetland Surveys Ireland (WSI), appointed by EirGrid to refine and implement the monitoring programme, completed baseline surveys in August 2020; finding the meadow species poor, homogenous and lacking flora species of conservation significance.

A new mowing regime will be introduced in part of the site in 2021 (one early cut, and one late cut). Botanical monitoring and statistical analyses will compare new and existing mowing regimes, to measure changes and inform future management. Unmown areas have been retained for overwintering invertebrates and spraying of plantation areas has ceased. A nesting bird box with an integrated camera has been installed to monitor bird breeding success, with records to be submitted to the Nest Record Scheme of the British Trust for Ornithology.

Wetland Surveys Ireland identifying meadow plants at EWIC
ABB Hitachi installing pole-mounted nest box containing video camera

How is EirGrid sharing the results of the project?

EirGrid has registered the EWIC Biodiversity Project as a site under the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.

The NPWS has included the EWIC Biodiversity Project as a case study in their Irish Business and Biodiversity Project report available here. This project is examining how business contribution to Ireland’s national biodiversity objectives can be enhanced.

Please check this page for future updates on the project, which will be available on this website.

What future actions are EirGrid considering?

Pending further consultation and monitoring, EirGrid is exploring:

  • Planting of yellow rattle, outside current monitoring plots, to decrease soil nutrients and grass dominance in favour of plant diversity
  • Localized hedgerow planting to fill gaps in hedgerows for habitat connectivity
  • Exposure of bare ground and south-facing earth banks for invertebrates
  • Installation of timber posts with pre-drilled holes, for cavity-nesting bees

Longer term, EirGrid anticipates also monitoring invertebrates, to increase the evidence-base informing actions taken. EirGrid is also considering options to use the EWIC site for environmental training and educational purposes to benefit local communities.

EirGrid has signed the Business for Nature Pledge

In 2020 EirGrid, EirGrid joined over 530 organizations  globally, including the World Economic Forum and Cambridge University in signing the Business for Nature pledge.

Business for Nature is a global coalition of businesses, and conservation organizations, whose goals include strengthening evidence of business leadership and momentum on nature.

EirGrid shares Ecological Data

Target 7.2 of the current National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2022 requires Irish governmental departments and the NBDC to contribute data and information to European and international networks to support conservation research and policy.

To support the above policy and EirGrid’s own biodiversity commitments under its Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, EirGrid advocates that Ecological Consultants working on transmission projects submit relevant ecological records (particularly rare and protected species) to the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC). Submission of data on EirGrid projects follows relevant standards, such as those available from the NBDC (https://www. biodiversityireland.ie/national-standards/) the Irish Raptor Study Group (http://irsg.ie/) and the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey (http://www.ihhws.ie/).