SONI (System operator for
Northern Ireland) was de-
lighted to join the thousands in attendance at the 2018 Balmoral Show, returning as a Premier Partner for the third year running.
Members of SONI’s team met with attendees to discuss SONI’s role in the Northern Ireland electricity sector, and to provide updates and answer questions about key infrastrucutre projects such as the North South Interconnetor.
There was also plenty of en-tertainment on offer, with attendees’ competitive spirit brought out by the Buzzwire Challenge and SONI’s famous Titan robot back by popular demand and attracting huge crowds just as he did last year.
Fergal Keenan, SONI’s Agricultural Liaison Officer, said the Balmoral Show provides SONI with an important opportunity to engage with Northern Ireland’s agricultural and farming community: “Forming trusted relationships with farmers and landowners is essential for SONI and a vital aspect of the work we do throughout Northern Ireland.
“We understand that if we are going to deliver modern infrastructure to support economic growth, it has to be progressed in partnership with those people who will host the projects.
“The Balmoral Show gives us a fantastic platform to engage with landowners from across Northern Ireland to discuss the work that SONI does and provide information on our current projects.
SONI’s stand this year was by the Agri-Pavilion and provided space for attendees to sit-down, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and have a chat with members of its team. As always, hundreds of children (and adults) tried their hand at the Buzzwire Challenge – with a few successful efforts!
It didn’t take long into the first day of the show before attendees were asking for Titan the SONI robot, and he didn’t disappoint! At eight feet tall he attracted some of the biggest crowds of the week, wowing his audience with pranks, singing and jokes.
“The weather is beautiful and everyone has been in great form – perfect for Titan’s performances,” Fergal laughed.
“On a serious note, the show also gives us the opportunity to speak with younger people, the next generation who will benefit from current and future projects being taken forward by SONI.
“In our view, a hugely important aspect of our role is facilitating economic growth and investment in Northern Ireland. This helps make it a more attractive place to live, work and start a family in the years to come.
“Modern infrastructure and a high quality and reliable supply of electricity is of fundamental importance to farms, businesses and employers across the region – and that’s what we’re working to maintain and improve.”
SONI’s priority infrastructure project remains the proposed North South Interconnector; and proposed new 400kV overhead line to further connect the transmission networks in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“The Interconnector is the most important infrastructure project on the island of Ireland,” explains Fergal.
“When delivered, it will bring very real benefits to consumers everywhere by allowing the all-island electricity market to work as efficiently as possible. This will result in downward pressure on people’s bills.
“It’s also needed to achieve long-term security of electricity supply in Northern Ireland – something that is obviously very important to both domestic and commercial consumers.
“We appreciate that some people still have concerns about the project, and a key aspect of our engagement answering questions that members of the public have and making sure they fully understand the reasons behind the proposal and why it is urgently required.
“We’re committed to making ourselves as accessible as possible. As well as visiting directly affected landowners along the proposed route for the Interconnector, we have a permanent office in Armagh that people are more than welcome to visit for information and a chat about the proposal.
“SONI also has a mobile unit that we take into local communities to encourage engagement with members of our team. It’s great for agricultural shows like Balmoral and has been used a lot for discussions with attendees at Balmoral this week.”
As well as the Interconnector, SONI is working to deliver other key infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland, each of which involves extensive engagement with landowners and farmers.
“Engagement is at the heart of what we do,” explains Fergal.
“We recently introduced new Landowner Commitments that clearly set out the standards we’ll adhere to when working with landowners now and in the future.
“Looking ahead we hope to build on these commitments to continue to ensure that modern infrastructure is delivered in partnership with local landowners and to the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.
“In the meantime we’re already looking forward to the Balmoral Show in 2019!”
Fergal comes from a farming background himself. He works across all of SONI’s grid development projects and can be contacted over the phone on 0796 693 0844 or via email at email@example.com
SONI’s information office at 16 Russell Street, Armagh, is open every Wednesday between noon and 7pm, when people are more than welcome to drop in whenever suits.
Alternatively, appointments can be made for outside these times by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org