Winning new UK pylon design may never be used
Thanks anyway, have £5k for your trouble
Eco Strategy Boutique A Danish company has won a competition to design a new electricity pylon for the UK. The Department of Energy and Climate Change announced the winner, Bystrup, today.
The winner will trouser £5,000 in prize money for its 'T-Pylon' design, but there's no commitment that it will be scarring the countryside any time soon. Infrastructure suppliers are not obliged to use the winning pylon design, and the National Grid says it wants to work with two other shortlisted candidates, the Silhouette and the Totem.
“This is an innovative design which is simple, classical and practical. Its ingenious structure also means that it will be much shorter and smaller than existing pylons and therefore less intrusive," gushed Chris Huhne, the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, for whom whale song is a lifestyle soundtrack.
In the right light, in snow, and with enough lens flare, you can hardly see it:
Bystrup's TPylon design
The shape of Britain's pylons has barely changed since Sir Reginald Blomfield, the Edwardian architect and landscape designer, chose the first design in 1927. There are now some 88,000 pylons in the UK.
Under current energy policy, tens of thousands more will be needed to link up new, expensive and barely functional windmills at their remote locations - mostly former beauty spots - to the national power grid.
Given the circumstances, perhaps GIMP- or Photoshop-fluent readers could come up with a more appropriate design. Mail them here. ®
Cost and enviromental disruption
Cost - overhead cables use a free insulator (air) which also provides good cooling.
Underground cables need thick (expensive) insulation and because of the impaired cooling compared to overhead cables (with their bare conductors) need to have a greater conductor crosssection than overhead cables.
The civil engineering works needed for high power underground cables are far more extensive than for overground cables of the same capacity.
To replace a double circuit overhead line (3 conductors per side plus a single earthed wire) requires a set of trenches and access ways occupying a 17 metre wide corridor (or bigger) with wider sections where the jointing bays are. This causes far more environmental damage than a overhead line.
The reason for the spacing is to allow for heat removal, maintenance and to ensure that the failure of one circuit does not cause the failure of the other circuit.
Low power circuits (up to a few MW) do not have the same cooling problems so simple buried cables are suitable (but still cost far more than overhead cables).
For further details see the paper by the National Grid
Have you any idea how expensive it is to run and maintain cabling underground? The olympics site is hardly a good example, it's a relatively tiny site, in a city, so there is no alternative to burying cabling and is near to the grid.
Are there engineering & cost criteria
Are these things being assessed by structure engineers? Are there engineering and cost criteria, or is it just aesthetics?
The existing lattice designs were produced for a reasons such as strength, resilience and economy of materials. It strikes me that some of these new designs are quite pretty but will present engineering issues. For instance, those single column designs will surely need much deeper foundations than something more widely based. The central column will have to survive quite high bending forces and will either have to be quite large diameter, or built of thicker/stronger materials, or possibly both. Also, how will these designs cope with changes in direction of the grid lines? That inevitably ends up with high side forces (although I suppose that pylons in such location could be built to a stronger standard whilst maintaining the aesthetics.
Finally, I suspect single columns are more vulnerable to sabotage than lattice arrangements which are actually more resistant to damage. Indeed, a lattice design can be engineered to allow replacement of failing/corroded members without having to dismantle the whole thing. I don't see how this can be done with these single column designs.