A vision of our electric future: What might Britain's new pylons look like?

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Six Pylon Design Competition finalists unveiled The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP opens pylon design display at the V&A’s London Design…

  • Six Pylon Design Competition finalists unveiled
    • The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP opens pylon design display at the V&A’s London Design Festival

The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP opened a display featuring scale models of six striking designs for new electricity pylons to the public today at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The ‘Pylon for the Future’ display forms part of the London Design Festival and is open to the public until 05 October 2011.

The finalists are:

  • Silhouette by Ian Ritchie Architects and Jane Wernick Associates
  • T-Pylon by Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering
  • Y-Pylon by Knight Architects with Roughan & O’Donavon, and ESB International in association with MEGA
  • Flower Tower by Gustafson Porter with Atelier One, and Pfisterer
  • Plexus by Al-A with Arup
  • Totem by New Town Studio, with Structure Workshop

You can download high resolution images of the launch event and finalist entries at DECC’s Flickr site.

Speaking to the finalists, Energy and Climate Change Secretary The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP said:

“Britain will see the equivalent of 20 new power stations constructed by 2020, and we need to use electricity pylons to get this new, low-carbon energy to your televisions and toasters, dishwashers and DVD players. We must make sure that we take into account the visual impact on the landscape and also the view of the public, and this is what the Pylon Design Competition is all about. I am highly impressed by the quality of these designs and I hope everyone takes the time to get involved and give their view.”

To coincide with the pylon design display, National Grid has today published its new approach to building new transmission infrastructure. Using this approach, National Grid will put greater emphasis on mitigating the visual impact of its new electricity lines, while balancing this with the need to minimise household energy bills.

National Grid’s Executive Director UK, Nick Winser, said:

“Connecting Britain’s new power stations to our homes and businesses will be one of the great infrastructure challenges of the next decade and beyond. Through the use of new technology, pylon design, extensive consultation and undergrounding where appropriate, our new approach will ensure we consider very seriously the visual impact of new transmission lines.”

The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP commented:

“National Grid’s approach is very welcome, and is consistent with government policy set out in the National Policy Statements, which Parliament approved in July. Pylons are a vital part of the grid but people in areas potentially affected by new transmission lines can be reassured that alternatives to overhead lines will be actively explored, with undergrounding wherever justified.”

With a new generation of power stations due to come online in the coming decades, new transmission lines will be needed to carry this new energy to homes and businesses. These lines will connect new sources of power generation, such as wind farms and nuclear power plants. National Grid’s more sophisticated approach to the visual impact of transmission lines reflects collaboration with the Government and builds on the recently-designated National Policy Statements (NPS). National Grid will consider the visual impact of its new electricity lines with greater sensitivity to the beautiful British countryside, while balancing this with the need to minimise household energy bills. It will lead to greater focus on a range of mitigation measures such as undergrounding, re-routing, alternative pylon design.

On 23 May the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and National Grid called for designs for a new generation of electricity pylon. A total of 250 submitted designs from around the world have been whittled down to just six finalists who have been working with the National Grid and Millennium Models to build scale models of their designs for the final judging panel.

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. The challenge is to design a pylon that has the potential to deliver for future generations while balancing the needs of local communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside.

The public are invited to comment on the designs via the competition website until 5 October and those comments will be taken into account by the judging panel when it makes its final decision later that month.

The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP will chair the judging panel, which will include National Grid’s Nick Winser, former director of the V&A Sir Mark Jones, architects Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and Bill Taylor, engineer Chris Wise, journalist Jonathan Glancey, Scottish Power representative Jim Sutherland and former RIBA president Ruth Reed.

A prize fund of £10,000 will be shared amongst the winning candidates and National Grid will give consideration to developing the winning design for use in future projects.

Notes for editors

  1. 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 20 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.
  2. A list of the finalists is available on the Pylon Design Competition website.
  3. The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP’s opening speech at the Pylon Design Competition Shortlist event
  4. Photos of the shortlisted pylon designs[External link]

Podcast of the shortlisting event featuring all the designers presenting their winning pylon ideas.