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UK's National Grid Installs World’s First T-pylon in Transmission Upgrade

image credit: National Grid
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The first new design of pylon in almost a century is raised in Britain as part of a program to upgrade some of the country's electricity grid to accommodate both renewable energy and the new nuclear power station Hinkley Point C, currently under construction.

This will be one of 116 T-pylons along a 35 mile route, connecting energy to six million UK consumers. The T-pylons have a single pole and T-shaped cross arms which hold the wires in a diamond shape, which has been compared to an ‘earring’. They are 114 feet high, a third shorter than the National Grid’s standard lattice pylons, and have a smaller footprint as they cover a lesser area.

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These new pylons form part of National Grid’s Hinkley Connection project, a $1,247m investment in connecting electricity from Hinkley Point C Nuclear power station, on the coastal South West of England. They will run between local towns, with an exception for the Mendip Hills Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) where the new connection is being cabled underground so as to preserve the landscape. This also means that some 249 existing pylons will become redundant and be removed.

The new T-pylon design – from Danish company Bystrup – was the winner from over 250 proposals entered into an international competition run in 2011, organized by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the government. An important criterion for new energy infrastructure is to enable progress towards net zero emissions. The competition also mandated any new design to reduce impact on the local area and environment.

T-pylons are part of a number of technologies used by the National Grid to diminish the impact of electricity infrastructure, including alternative lattice pylon designs and different types of underground and subsea cable systems. The appropriate approach for each new development or upgrade is assessed on a case-by-case basis, with each technology implemented where it is operationally feasible and cost-efficient for electricity consumers. There are no other sections of T-pylons planned currently.

Construction of the first 48 T-pylons by engineers Balfour Beatty for the National Grid began last week near East Huntspill, with each pylon taking roughly five days to build. Construction of the remaining 68 pylons, north of Sandford will start in 2022.

Chris Bennett, Acting President, National Grid Electricity Transmission says, “We are always looking for innovative new ways to mitigate the impact of our infrastructure on the natural environment and projects such as T-pylons are a great example.

“This new design forms part of our significant investment in the network in England and Wales, adding capacity onto the grid to deliver increasing amounts of low carbon energy and support the UK’s drive towards its net zero target."

Matt Steele, Balfour Beatty’s Managing Director for its Rail and Utilities business, explains, “Our unique capability and extensive experience in delivering major, complex overhead line schemes, makes us ideally positioned to play a key role in constructing the world’s first T-pylons.

“We look forward to working with National Grid to successfully and safely deliver low-carbon electricity to millions of people, supporting the UK’s net zero ambitions.”

The Hinkley Connection project will be ready to connect to Hinkley Point C nuclear power station by the end of 2024, with the project complete by 2025.

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