T-pylon
T-pylon
The new design means the pylons use fewer parts, require less resources, and have a reduced visual impact. Pic credit: bdonline.co.uk

The UK is preparing to install new lightweight electricity pylons, the first new design of an electricity pylon in almost 90 years, reports the BBC.

The design by Danish company Bystrup, a monopole structure with a T-shaped cross arm, was the unanimous winner out of 250 entries for a 2011 competition held by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Royal Institute of British Architects, and National Grid.

Lightweight pylon design

The innovative design has developed the cables and insulators in a diamond formation resulting in the height of the pylons being reduced to 35 metres, 10-15 metres shorter than traditional steel lattice towers. The design means the pylons use fewer parts, require less resources, and have a reduced visual impact.

Despite its shorter stance the tower is capable of operating at 400,000 volts because of the way the cables are held in place. Instead of being attached to three arms, a diamond arrangement is used to carry the cables off in one arm in a much smaller space.

Each arm has to carry 60 tonnes. With only eight main structural components plus bolts, it is easier to erect and install – taking a day rather than a week, states the report.

Transition in the energy mix

According to the National Grid, new pylons are needed to respond to the transition from coal towards other forms of generation such as wind, solar and nuclear. The National Grid says it will respond to the need to harvest energy from an increasing number of lower-carbon energy sources.

These new low-carbon energy sources come from different geographical locations to the “traditional ring” of coal-fired generation in the centre of England. The construction of the test line will not be connected to the rest of the grid just yet and will be used to train staff and contractors.

Up-skilling through new techniques

In particular it will be used for people to practise ‘stringing’ the conductors (wires) on to the pylons, as a very different technique is needed.

According to project manager Alan Large, maintenance will be easier because operators will not have to climb up the tower, they will work from elevated platforms positioned alongside it. Their smooth, impenetrable surface will also make them more difficult to vandalise.

Ed Davey, secretary of state for Energy and Climate Change, last year welcomed the new pylons saying: “Love them or hate them, pylons will carry electricity to homes across the country for many years to come.

“While there are plans for cables to be buried under our most beautiful landscapes, we also need to keep consumer bills as low as possible, which means that pylons still have a vital role particularly for rural communities, and it is important that we move with the times and make sure they are as good looking and efficient as possible. The T-pylon is a model for the future and it is great to see the design becoming a reality.”