back to article Winning new UK pylon design may never be used

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. …

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  1. Chrome

    I had to laugh when I clicked the bonus link and noticed the word 'Interesting' in the URL

  2. JaitcH
    Happy

    I still can't see how they can carry the 449-550,000 wires

    presently the highest voltage lines, often pairs of cables rather than a single cable per phase, can be hung.

    How is helicopter cable maintenance going to be practical on the cables nearest the vertical support column?

    NOW all that is left is to NOT run the cables over/through beautiful skylines.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      helicopter maintainance... not a problem

      We dont do that in the UK.

      We have an N-1 network, and a proactive H&S lobby, so no live line work above 11kV.

      World experience is mixed - in aus they do a lot of hot stick & hot hand with a great saftey record. in the US it's abysmal, workers die every year.

      <Pedant>

      Cables - diletric insulated, self contained transmission system - they go underground

      Conductors - bare wires use the air as dilectril, they go overhead

      </Pedant>

  3. Stevie Silver badge

    Er...

    *How* low?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    why?

    What's wrong with the currently used design? Or is it that the copyright on it has expired?

    1. Marvin the Martian
      IT Angle

      The same as what's wrong with cast-iron bridges.

      They're fine, just cost a lot of material and a lot of maintenance, while having been drawn up for an outdated spec sheet.

      As for the suggestion that the public with a set of crayons can come up with a better design (especially the sackful of colourblind hedgehogs that constitutes ElReg's readership), that's just idiotic.

      What scarring of the landscape? There's no deeper scars than those stone walls all through wales & england, visible from miles (where barb wire would have been visible only from say 500m)! Oh, they're "natural" or somewhat? No they're not, they were both built by man as the best tech they could lay their hands on.

      I for one salute the new 50% lighter 40% shorter T-pylons.

  5. fridaynightsmoke
    Coat

    There's a real buzz around the new design,

    the response has been electric.

  6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Pint

    The 'other' alternative

    Is to use a JCB and bury the dam things underground.

    If they can do it with 133Kv at the Olymics site, then the much smaller Kv from these ECO wind farms should be kept underground.

    Plus if they are buried 6ft under, the copper thieves will have a harder time stealing the damm stuff.

    The overhead cables are just to easy. Push or pull the pylon over, duck to avoid the sparks and then help yourself.

    Beer time!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err...

      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.

    2. Test Man
      Stop

      Good idea...

      ... but if you had watched the film The Distinguished Gentlemen, you'd know why that is not possible.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah but if they are strung through the air, their corpses will act as a warning to the other numpties who try to steel cable.

    4. Iain
      FAIL

      ... to the steel-cored aluminium cable!

      Yes I watched the re-run of the BBC series about the national grid

    5. Andydaws

      At the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious

      How big is the Olympic park, versus running a line from the Scottish border to London.......?

    6. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
      Stop

      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

      http://www.nationalgrid.com/NR/rdonlyres/A7B2CC6B-0152-4734-82E2-96FD674F0749/36546/UndergroundingTheTechnicalIssues5.pdf

      1. Andydaws

        All quite right

        but its actually even worse - for waterproofing, buried or trenched cable needs to be gas-filled and pressurised.

        Now, that gets REALLY expensive...

    7. Naughtyhorse

      where to begin...

      all uhv transmisison systems in the UK use either all aluminium or steel supported aluminium conductors (with small amounts of gap or carbon composite cored)

      No copper. Anywhere above 33kV

      The intermediate transmission voltage is 132kV

      I squared R losses from cables are much higher - which kinda fucks up the eco arguement.

      Windfarms can feed into the network at upto 400kV AC or even 500kV DC - with an appropriate converter station

      Cabled are not buried 6 feet - that just makes them _even_ more inefficient. 1.3m is the norm

      with the exception of 11kv and LV ABC there are no cables on poles or towers, there are conductors however.

      Pylons are designed to survive (depending on design code) the 3 tons odd load of each wire, the weight of the conductors covered with 9.5mm radial ice, 13mm of ice on the supports, and a wind of 380 n/m on the whole lot. - and thats with a FoS of 2.5! If you want to pull one over, by all means be my guest, but i wont hold my breath.

      if a 400kV line touched the ground the rise of earth potential would almost certainly kill anyone in the vicinity before the protection activated.

      apart from that, good point well made

  7. stupormundi

    Inb4

    you need Additional Pylons

  8. JB
    Happy

    The question is....

    ...will your kite still get caught up in the wires with this design?

    1. Graham Marsden
      Mushroom

      Only...

      ... once!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice...

    I think they look quite nice, although I do have a soft spot for the current pylons.

  10. LesC
    Thumb Up

    Pylontastic!

    There is plenty more British pylon goodness here at Flash Bristow's site - go and look you know it makes sense if you can distinguish your L8's from your PL16's:

    http://www.gorge.org/pylons/envision

    Then go join the PAS.

    LC

  11. Cliff

    Pylon Designs

    http://bit.ly/qdYB0b

    http://bit.ly/rqq46x

    1. Mike Row
      Mushroom

      Use Less bit.ly

      Don't follow those stupid links a I can't even guess where it is taking me.

      Mostly used by @!#$%@#$holes directing to infected sites anyway.

      1. Cliff

        Paranoid?

        http://andromedababe.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/angel4001.jpg

        I may be an @!#$%@#$hole in your eyes, but no, it's not an infected site, just trying to keep the excitement up for you.

  12. Steven Jones

    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.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Winning foreign company ignored in favour of second-best local companies. Now there's a surprise.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never knew you gave a crap about beauty spots.

  15. Frederic Bloggs

    Cheddar Testing Station

    Does this still exist? It used to be one of the more interesting places our school used to visit. This is the place where they (the CEGB) (used to) test new pylon designs to destruction. One of the things that I vaguely remember from this was that they thought that solid designs of this type were intrinsically less robust compared to wide base space frame designs. Particularly when stressed with excessive side loading. But maybe things have improved and/or they don't test as rigorously as they used.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cheddar Testing Station

      Cheddar Testing? Yummy! Where do I sign up?

    2. Naughtyhorse

      Sadly Cheddar is no more

      yet curiously there is still a requirement for some of the designs to be tested to failure...

      India is your best bet for that these days.

  16. Alan Firminger

    The design shows two lozenges carrying four wires. If the top cable, almost certainly earth, breaks it falls onto a phase. They did it better in 1927.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      if the earthwire parts, there is no telling where it will go on the way down!

      Twin earthwires will increase cost, but help reduce height.

      and when all's said and done, if the earthwire fails:

      a) it's prolly carrying some fibres so your protection goes out too

      b) you'd want the main protection to operate in any case - a massive spike in earthfault will achieve this nicely

  17. Big-nosed Pengie
    Headmaster

    "Infrastructure suppliers are not obliged to use the winning pylon design"

    What a delight to see that abominable illiteracy "obligated" avoided.

  18. Martin Usher
    Happy

    Single pole?

    The US uses a variety of pylon designs but one of the most common is just to stick up a pole with three large insulators sticking out of the side and run the lines on that. This deals with medium voltages -- up to 200Kv or so -- and is utilitarian (you can put lower voltage lines, phones, fiber, cable TV and what-have-you further down the pole. Its actually quite unobtrusive. Cheap, too.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      those 200kV poles dont carr other services and they are HUGE (rare ergo expensive) and bungin comms and 'what have you' further down the pole create nightmares for designers in the US. wind loads to through the roof, and you need to allow addition clearance.

      A nightmare, which could alledgedly be coming to our shores soon

  19. Tom Chiverton 1
    WTF?

    In other words

    We#re going to have http://www.ribapylondesign.com/images/shortlist/P12_highres.jpg because it's most like the current ones.

    What was the point of the competition ?!?

  20. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    Doesn't matter which nation won the design

    They will be put up by Poles.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Ohm my god.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "less robust compared to wide base space frame designs. "

    Especially when tested with a suitably motivated War on Terror person in a bit of a rush with an angle grinder or a bit of Semtex/C4/whatever.

    Style of thing.

  22. jonathanb Silver badge

    Looks nice, but will it work?

    In the photos of all the other pylons around the world, you see the cable suspended from the main pylon structure with ceramic insulating disks. I'm not an electrical engineer, but I get the feeling that attaching a 400kV cable directly to the metal structure is not a good idea. I'm pretty sure that attaching a 400kV directly to a metal structure that has 400kV cables from different phases is even less of a good idea.

    Secondly, don't pylons normally carry 7 cables or groups of cables? Two cables for each of the three phases on the sides, plus earth running along the top. This one has 8 cables.

    I am also not a structural engineer, but this design looks like it is a lot more likely to topple over in high winds than traditional designs.

    1. Dave Bell

      It does look more practical than some of the other designs that were shortlisted.

      They do talk about using better insulating materials, but 400 kV will be enough for a pretty long arc through the air, or along the insulator surface on a foggy day.

      400 kV RMS to earth is more like 700 kV between phases as I recall. I think the electrical engineers will have something to say about these.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        other way round...

        400kV is the phase to phase voltage

        so you have 400 * 1/root 3

        =231kV

  23. Big Al
    Coffee/keyboard

    Invoice: one keyboard

    "the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, for whom whale song is a lifestyle soundtrack"

    Most amusing thing I've read all week - nice one Andrew!

  24. fLaMePrOoF
    FAIL

    What utter bollocks

    Absolutely NO thought has gone into the actual physical feasibility of this or many of the other designs.

    For goodness sake just look at the thing; how on earth are those flimsy dangling cable supports supposed to carry the weight of high power cables and stand up (quite literally) to the elements?!!

    The current pylons are shaped as they are for a very good reason; they need to cary considerable weight and remain upright in the highest winds. yes, with modern materials I'm sure we could reduce the footprint and overall visual impact of pylons considerably, but these designs are nothing more than a graphic designers wet dreams, enjoyed with nothing even closely resembling a construction engineer in sight.

    1. Marvin the Martian
      FAIL

      Yes, because you were there when they designed the thing.

      What an eejit.

    2. Lunatik

      You saw the judging panel then. Oh, right; you didn't...

      A National Grid/Transco boss type

      An ex-President of the Royal Academy

      A Chartered Engineer specialising in power transmission

      ..plus a smattering of experienced technical architects, and of course one Mr Huhne.

      These designs may be fanciful, but give the panel some credit and admit that at least some thought will have gone into the technical feasibility of the shortlisted designs (less so some of the others - what were they thinking?!).

      Also, to dismiss them as being flimsy and unsuitable sounds like the kind of thing a contemporary of Wren's might have said looking at the plans for the Millau Viaduct or Burj Khalifa...

  25. Craig 28

    Poorly reported

    Looks like Andrew's off on another right wing tangent. If all it cost to get multiple new pylon designs developed was £5K plus whatever it took to pay the wages for the people judging it then it's an absolute bargain. Commissioning a new design could have easily cost far more, plus how much does the average pylon cost? I don't have the figures for that last one obviously but I'm willing to bet that between buying the pylon and setting it up that £5K wouldn't get you very many of them. The companies entering got some advertising for their designs while the government got a chance to promote the idea of low-impact pylon designs at very low cost. As far as the public wallet goes this is a win in my book.

    Now if you want to criticise the engineering go right ahead but for goodness sake stop banging on about the eco nuts. You don't need to be an eco nut to see that anything we can do to cut down the impact we have on the local scenery is a good thing. Why is it that you criticise the placing of wind farms on former beauty spots but don't consider the possibility of less conspicuous pylons a worthwhile goal?

    Regarding the other posters here, I'm no engineer so can't really say too much. All I'll say is it's a good goal to have, we shouldn't sacrifice too much practicality for the impact reduction but if some of the designs have been decently engineered then it would be wrong to stick with the old design purely from nostalgia and familiarity.

  26. Grease Monkey

    The current design has many advantages.

    There is of course the ease of repair, being a giant mecano set makes it very easy to repair without replacing the whole structure. The winning design appears to be an effective monocoque, replacement would be pretty much the only option.

    Then there's the ease of cable maintenance. All the cables are easilly accesible. Not so in the case of the new design.

    The thing that I think is the showstopper is, however, installation. The current pylons have a very wide base and can be installed on four small, shallow foundations. The narrow base of the winning design would seem to require a huge base to keep it stable. Just the sort of thing you need to be installing in some remote moor or farmer's field.

  27. Harmless
    WTF?

    I saw this on TV the other day, they mentioned the advantage of the current design was that engineers could easily climb the lattice towers. Then they revealed the winner, which, being a single pole, is obviously is much harder to climb!

  28. Alex King

    Turbines

    Wasn't there an idea to site spiral-type turbines in the middle of existing pylons. I seem to remember that was from a competition too. What happened to that?

    Oh, and to the engineering "experts" on here who think these new pylons won't stand up to the elements, they look pretty similar in construction to the types of pylon that carry chairs and cable cars all over the alps and rockies in some pretty inhospitable conditions, with people on board much of the time, so I reckon they're OK on this front.

    1. Grease Monkey

      As for the spiral turbines, that would put unacceptable loads on the pylons. They are designed to take the loads they take with the forces of the wind. Add more wind resistance and they might buckle in high winds.

      And yes the structure itself is possibly strong enough, but it would require a very big foundation. Something the existing wide based design does not need. Take a look at the foundations wind turbines are built on to get the idea. Notice I said possibly strong enough, theres a hell of a lot of testing goes into each pylon design and I don't suppose these have undergone that testing yet. It would be ironic if, having won the competition, they were to fail the tests.

  29. Mike Richards Silver badge

    But not as nice as this proposal

    For the Icelandic power distribution company Landsnet:

    http://www.choishine.com/port_projects/landsnet/landsnet.html

    We should definitely have these giant stalking things because:

    a: they're awesome, but mostly;

    b: they'd give Andrew a seizure.

    1. John 62

      pretty cool, but repairs?

      Those are indeed rather cool. But I'd hate to have to repair them. They would probably end up with variety extending to the same person/pose used for each branch of the grid rather than per pylon.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuke is the way to go.

    why not just build a load of thorium based nuclear reactors , and screw wind farms , wave machines, stupid PV panels on peoples houses, Eastern Europeans and their over priced gas, and the Middle East and their overpriced oil.

    We could even have "green retard " power stations where we fry all the idiots who think Wind and Wave are viable sources of power.

    Plus with Nuke-le-are power we call all run around looking like the Ready Brek kids from the late '70s .

    Even Arthur Scargill and his coal would be better than the current situation.

  31. Isn't it obvious?

    We mostly use lattice towers here (Ontario)...

    ...because they cost less. City-dwellers prefer steel column towers (like the winning design) because they're prettier; farmers prefer them because they occupy less of a field. They tend to get built only as a concession, because of the higher cost.

    Typically, even then, angle towers (where the line bends) are still lattice towers, because it's much easier to build one that can support a lateral load without guying it.

    The lattice towers certainly are durable; back when I was in university (late 80's) I found an in-service 115kV transmission tower that still had a visible 1929 installation date on it (the other towers on that line were probably the same age, but had too much patina to read).

  32. Stewart Wood
    Alert

    Bit of winds and that would be a few city's & towns without power

    Me I would make them all hybrid powerlines with Functional Vertical Axis Wind Turbines

    Like these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6s3nbmmmPs&NR=1

    They don't suffer with air turbulence in fact they thrive on it

    its funny all the pylons we have now can be retro fitted with these Vertical Axis Wind Turbines in the centre of each one of them maybe 3x per tower and best of all there quiet too

    Better yet Get rid of all lines and use pipes to carry Hydrogen and give every home a Hydrogen Fuel Cell

    The Cells Emit : Heat + Pure Water + Electricity

    The heat is Clean and with No emissions can use the cells to heat the house along with hot water

    What can you do with Hydrogen that you can’t do for long with Electricity on its own

    For one we can make it a liquid to store more of it you can also Store it more than a year in tanks.

    We have a lot of old mine shafts and under ground mines in the UK that would make fantastic liquid Hydrogen Storage areas

    Think about it Are long summer days we can store Liquid Hydrogen for are winters

    Waste water form the Cells could Give rise to Sewer Based power plants - using Archimedes Screw Turbines

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFCBe0SvUWM

    That’s right Your kettle and toilet flushing + Rain creates more Electricity & Hydrogen!!

    Hydrogen Will even solve water shortage problems here in the uk

    Pure Water can be used for Showers / Baths / Toilets / Washing Machines So Your own Fuel Cell Give them all water LOL

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