More Sunday pylon blogging

The winners of a British competition for better electricity pylons.

In the High and Far-Off Times (2008 and 2011) I blogged some photos of modern French and other designs for high-voltage electricity pylons that look like well-designed pieces of engineering, not a child’s failed Meccano project. I told you that the British Department of Energy and Climate Change had launched a competition for pylons for the British grid, then I forgot about it. Rather late, here are the winner and the five others that made the shortlist. This was actually announced – ahem – in October 2011. There hasn’t exactly been a rush anywhere to phase out the old lattices, so it’s still a good idea to publicise the new designs. The assessment included National Grid, the operator of the transmission network, and an eminent academic engineer served as one of the judges, so we can assume all the shortlist met engineering standards.

Winner: T-pylon from Bystrup of Denmark

Pylon T-pylon
This clean but not very exciting design won in part because of its low height, making it less intrusive in the landscape: it cuts 35 14 metres off the existing lattices. National Grid are committed to this to the extent of building a line of six at their training centre in Nottinghamshire, and will offer the design as an option to communities affected by new lines.

Also-rans below the jump.

National Grid said they would work more on the next two with the designers.

Silhouette by Ian Ritchie

Pylon P12

Totem by Christopher Snow


Flower Tower by Gustafson Porter

Pylon P82

AL_A by Amanda Levete

Pylon P113

Y-pylon by Knight Architects

Pylon P197

Several of these incorporate advances on insulators. The ingenious suspended diamond frames of the winner are made out of mechanically strong insulators. Two designs go further and cut out separate insulators entirely. The arms of Knight Architects’ Y-pylon are silicon-sheathed so the cables can be directly attached. In Totem the projecting side-struts are made out of high-strength insulating composites.

Totem is a Fuller-style modular lattice, with thicker elements at the base. It could presumably be assembled on site in hard-to-access environments. You could even get the pieces in by mule.

My personal favourite is the Flower Tower, though it looks expensive to make. Any of the shortlist, or those I blogged earlier, would be a great improvement on current practice. There really is no excuse any more for utilities to continue to inflict cheap-and-nasty lattices on our landscapes. Though if you want to reinforce your view that civilisation is doomed, you only need to look through the complete gallery of entries.

Update 15 December

PS : Bystrup’s earlier Eagle pylon, deployed in quantity in Denmark.

Pylon Eagle


Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

One thought on “More Sunday pylon blogging”

  1. So, I know little about these, but I did wonder, is there any concern given to the width and stability of the base? Ime, tall skinny things tend to tip over easily, as in shampoo bottles and the like (yet I guess marketers like them b/c they fool people into thinking they're getting more product?)

    The only other thing is, I really like that little hissing, crackling sound you hear when you're near one. I adore it. It's like purring. (I hope it doesn't mean my brain is being fried…) Does anyone measure that? I suppose not.

    I like the ones we have now here, because to me they look like giant, friendly robots.

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