In the heart of the UK’s South West, a revolution in power transmission is taking place.
The National Grid’s Hinkley Connection Project, a significant stride towards a greener future, has reached a pivotal milestone. All 116 T-pylons, a novel design in electricity pylons, are now installed.
T-Pylons are not your average electricity pylons. They are the next generation, designed to be less obtrusive and more adaptable to the environment than their traditional lattice counterparts. Conceived by Danish company Bystrup Architecture Design and Engineering, the T-Pylon emerged victorious in an international competition held by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and the National Grid.
Standing shorter and occupying a smaller footprint, these innovative structures are a testament to modern engineering. They are built to carry high-voltage electricity over long distances, a crucial component in the UK’s efforts to modernise its electricity transmission infrastructure and reduce its carbon footprint.
The pylon represents a significant advancement in power transmission technology. The T-Pylon’s design is a testament to the versatility of steel. Unlike traditional lattice towers, the T-Pylon’s arms are slightly elevated, giving it an optimistic appearance. The structure consists of a few welded parts painted white, creating a leaner and shorter tower that is aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly.
The Engineering behind the T-Pylon
Using a monopile foundation further reduces costs, installation time, and environmental impact. The T-Pylon’s steel structure complies with Eurocode 3. A significant innovation in the T-Pylon design is reconfiguring the conductor/cable arrangement. This prismatic configuration reduces the pylon’s height by over 30%, reducing both the footprint of the power lines and the electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation.
The T-Pylon’s unique design features a single attachment point carrying all conductors, a departure from traditional structures with three separate arms, each having an individual conductor. This attachment point underwent rigorous testing to ensure its robustness and resistance to fatigue, including complex analysis and physical loading tests to simulate extreme weather conditions.
The pylons design is similar to wind turbine towers, allowing the steelwork contractor to leverage their experience from wind turbine towers to produce the shaft using automated processes in controlled factory conditions. This maximises offsite fabrication, simplifies on-site operations, and reduces the number of operatives required for the installation process.
This design significantly reduces maintenance requirements compared to traditional lattice towers. The durable coating system and lack of edges and bolted connections increase future maintenance intervals, making re-painting the buildings much faster. Also, no anti-climbing devices are needed for the monopole shaft, which would otherwise require frequent replacement.
The installation of the T-Pylons was a feat of engineering itself. Each of the 232 diamond-shaped insulators, which hold the high-voltage conductors in a diamond ‘earring’ shape, was meticulously lifted by crane and positioned on a T-pylon: National Grid and principal contractor Balfour Beatty between Yatton and Kenn in North Somerset.
The impact of the T-Pylons extends beyond their environmental presence. They are set to enhance the connection for six million homes and businesses to the low-carbon energy produced at Hinkley Point C, the UK’s first new nuclear plant in over 30 years.
The future of the T-Pylon
With all 116 structures now standing tall, the focus shifts to 2025 and the full completion of the Hinkley Connection Project. Once energised, these T-Pylons will be central in transmitting cleaner, homegrown energy around the UK – enough to power six million homes and businesses.The T-Pylons are not just a symbol of modern engineering; they symbolise the UK’s commitment to a greener, more sustainable future.
The T-Pylon is a generational step change in power transmission hardware. Its design re-examines arrangements for insulation and maintenance, resulting in a family of compact pylons that can be deployed in sensitive landscapes, with prefabrication enabling consistent finish, smaller land take, and speedy erection. This is a steelwork design classic.
TLDR of the Article:
- The UK’s National Grid’s Hinkley Connection Project has installed all 116 T-Pylons, a new design for electricity pylons.
- T-Pylons are shorter and have a smaller footprint than traditional lattice pylons, making them less obtrusive and more adaptable to the environment.
- The installation process was a significant engineering feat by National Grid and principal contractor Balfour Beatty.
- T-Pylons will enhance the connection for six million homes and businesses to the low-carbon energy produced at Hinkley Point C, the UK’s first new nuclear plant in over 30 years.
- The future of T-Pylons is bright, with the focus now shifting to fully completing the Hinkley Connection Project by 2025.