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  6. New pylon design competition

New pylon design competition

Architects, designers and engineers have been challenged to come up with designs for a new generation of UK transmission towers.

A competition, run by the Royal Institute of the British Architects on behalf the National Grid and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has just been launched.

The competition will close on 12 July. The designs will be open for public view on the competition website. There will also be an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part the London Design Festival in September.

The judging panel will meet in October to choose an overall winner. There will be a prize fund of £10,000 and the National Grid has said it will consider developing the winning design for use in future projects.

Currently there are more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on National Grid’s main transmission network in England and Wales. These stand some 50 metres high, weigh around 30 tonnes and carry up to 400,000 volts of electricity over thousands of kilometres of some of the most exposed, weather-beaten parts of Britain. But the familiar steel lattice tower has barely changed since the 1920s. 

As well as exploring the design of the pylon itself, the competition aims to explore the relationship between energy infrastructure and the environment within which it needs to be located.

Energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne said: “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.”

National Grid's executive director UK Nick Winser said: "The pylon as we know it has served the nation well, but new technologies and materials mean there may now be opportunities for new designs."

Read the Department of Energy and Climate Change press release.


Roger Milne

26 May 2011