Thursday, 02 October 2014
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First T-pylons to be made in UK

A British firm is to build the main part of the UK’s new prototype T-shaped pylons.

National Grid has awarded structural steel manufacturer Mabey Bridge the contract to build the supporting towers for the first six T-pylons that are due to be trialled at a test facility in Nottinghamshire.

After two initial kinds of prototype were designed and built in Denmark and tested in Sweden, the Mabey Bridge contract is the first indication that British engineering will benefit from the project to introduce an alternative to the traditional lattice-style pylon that dates back to the 1920s.

If work is successful, British-made T-pylons – designed in an international competition in 2011 – could one day dot the landscape starting with the connection to the new Hinkley Point power station in Somerset.

‘Mabey Bridge helped construct the traditional lattice structures when Britain’s electricity grid was first connected during the last century, and this order confirms our world leading manufacturing processes to help meet the needs of 21st energy infrastructure,’ said Mark Coia, managing director of Mabey Bridge Energy & Marine, in a statement.

The T-pylons, which were designed by Copenhagen-based engineering design practice Bystrup, consist of a single pole and T shaped cross arms holding the wires in a diamond shape. This means the pylon can stand at a height of just 35 metres, 10 to 15 metres shorter than traditional lattice towers.

The six new pylons will be tested at National Grid’s training academy at Eakring, where National Grid will study the construction, installation and maintenance aspects of the T-pylon design.

‘The test line at Eakring will allow us to fully rehearse how we might construct and maintain the T-pylon when in use and this contract with Mabey Bridge marks the start of that journey,’ said David Wright, director of electricity transmission asset management for National Grid.

The company is also working with researchers from Manchester and Cardiff universities to understand the impact on the transmission system of the T-pylons, which could be used to connect new nuclear power stations and renewable installations.

The T-pylon has been offered for the proposed Hinkley Point connection between the site of the planned new nuclear station near Bridgwater and distribution to the rest of the South West from Avonmouth.


Readers' comments (12)

  • What a pity these structures could not have been designed to incorporate a wind turbine.

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  • Well, the mix of thrashing blades and high voltage cables would be interesting, to say the least.

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  • Perhaps they could integrate a vertical axis wind turbine?

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  • The additional weight an equipment would likely make pylons an order of magnitude more expensive & wouldn't be located in the windiest spots.

    Quite a sleek and I think unobtrusive design. Painted to blend in and I'd be happy to have these replace my nearest power lines.

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  • Somewhere in the depths of my memory, is my recollections of attendance at a lecture given by one of the pioneers of the development of the National Grid. If I recall, the original design (the lattice) was predicated by the need to be able to carry the hundreds of small struts (standard parts) that would make up each large pylon easily to the remote places in what had been, until then open country through which the 'grid' was to pass [by horse, and even on the shoulders of the installation operatives!]

    Yes, hideous to look at, when compared with the present alternatives, but functional, practical and fit for purpose?

    best
    Mike B

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  • Daft, I call it, (to quote Giles the late Cartoonist, who often included the old ones).

    Which are most expensive, new or former, and how long will they last?

    However, glad to see the excellent Mabey are there, why can’t the whole thing be made here/UK? And, how will the new be phased in – only as the old ones wear out or on new routes?

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  • Presumably these pylons will need some form of ladder incorporated for maintenance and thus also a form of anti-climbing protection. A robust fence at ground level to prevent damage from Tractors etc. would also seem sensible and hey presto, no longer quite so sleek. Why a tapered circular cross-section which must be quite difficult and expensive to produce when a multi-flat sided pole could be made on a conventional Press Brake and then simply join mating sizes to produce taller or shorter pylons. The USA already extensively use such types very successfully. We seem always to want to re-invent the wheel to no particular purpose except maybe (no pun intended) to provide a lot of fees to Design and Consultancy firms...

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  • I wrote to the national grid team recommending they consider the pylon design that the Dutch national grid is using - having returned from there recently, I can confirm that the visual impact from these designs is much lower than any lattice design, and less so than these new T designs. See below for a link to a site with some details. A concrete collar at the bottom protects against tractor strike.

    http://www.inmr.com/2014/03/dutch-grid-operator-extends-use-new-transmission-line-design-issue-99-continue/3/

    The response from the national grid representative is below - I'm not an expert in electricity transmission, so don't know how the Dutch grid differs from ours.

    "Designs in different countries are subject to a wide range of technical considerations including electricity ratings, safety and operational considerations and landscapes. We don’t have the design you mention available in the UK. However, we carefully consider all designs available to us on a case by case basis when designing a new transmission line."

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  • I must be missing something here. I don't understand HOW these new pylons are saving 10-15M in height in comparison to the old. I was always given to understand that the height of the existing structures was governed by safety and a requirement for the clearance below the wires . . . Is it me ?

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  • Lots of questions to be answered:
    1) Why not put the cables underground and out of the way?
    2) Why not integrate some form of renewable energy source?
    3) What are the benefits of this design when its compared to the existing ?

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