Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Competition to rethink pylon design

The Northern Ireland electricity industry is facing some serious questions

They are probably one of the least-loved features of our countryside, and electricity pylons could now be getting a makeover through a competition to rethink their design.

It comes as ministers and industry say new pylons and infrastructure will be needed as the UK hooks up the equivalent of 20 new power stations over the next decade, including renewable sources such as wind, to meet electricity demand.

The competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and National Grid is calling on architects, designers and engineers to come up with new designs for pylons.

Pylons have barely changed since the 1920s and National Grid said it would give "serious consideration" to developing the winning design for use in future projects.

There are currently 88,000 electricity pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on National Grid's main transmission network in England and Wales. The 50-metre high steel lattice towers in the transmission network carry electricity for thousands of miles around the country.

Their design, chosen by leading architect Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1927, makes them resistant to high winds and lightning strikes and able to cope with the load and tension of the cables.

But the sight of them in the countryside, particularly in more beautiful and remote spots, can spark controversy.

Ministers now want designers to come up with a new design for pylons which can deliver electricity for future generations while preserving the countryside.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: "The dual challenge of climate change and energy security puts us on the brink of a new energy construction age. The equivalent of 20 new power stations is needed by 2020, much more beyond that, and they'll need connecting to the grid.

"It's crucial that we seek the most acceptable ways of accommodating infrastructure in our natural and urban landscapes. I hope the pylon design competition will ignite creative excitement, but also help the wider public understand the scale of the energy challenge ahead of us."

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