Whether you think they’re an indelible blight on the landscape or a part of our beautiful countryside, pylons are here to stay. So should we redesign them into works of art or keep the cost effective ones we’ve got?
There are currently 88,000 pylons in the UK – 22,000 of them on the main National Grid transmission network.
The original steel lattice design, perfected by Sir Reginald Blomfield (who, incidentally, also designed the Prime Minister’s country residence at Chequers) is now heading for its 85th birthday – so a little long in the tooth.
Time to redesign the pylon?
The Department for Energy and Climate Change, the National Grid and the Royal Institute of British Architects recently opened a competition to design a successor and over 250 designs were submitted.
I must say I am quite impressed with the designs, some are a significant departure from the existing design – some merely adapted it – but the very premise is thought provoking.
With the emphasis in future likely to move towards renewable energy, pylons are going to become more of a feature of the British landscape rather than less. To get electricity generated from wind farms and tidal generators we’ll need more and more of them. The days of power stations in the centre of London, like the long defunct one at Battersea, are long gone.
Don’t all pylon at once…
According to the National Grid it costs £1.6m per kilometre to set up pylon-transmitted electricity. This may sound a lot, but it’s small fry compared with around £20m per kilometre for buried cables. If we want to keep energy price increases to a minimum, it seems as though pylons are the only realistic way forward.
Having said that, some of the elaborate and beautiful designs submitted to the competition may not have been thought up with cost at the forefront of considerations.
Whether you think it’s beautiful or not, you could hardly argue that the current design isn’t functional – and at a relatively low cost too. Designs which follow the contours of the land and are built from composite materials might look elegant, but would we want them if they added another 10% or more to our energy bills?
In an ideal world we’d always have what’s most beautiful rather than what’s most cost effective. But this isn’t an ideal world so I keep coming back to the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Yes we need new pylons to keep the lights on, but what’s wrong with the ones we’ve got?
Do you think we should redesign the pylon?
Only if it doesn't affect the cost of our bills (45%, 112 Votes)
No, we're used to them as they are (29%, 72 Votes)
Yes, the current ones are ugly (26%, 64 Votes)
Total Voters: 248