A competition to design a new pylon to replace the current UK model, which has been unchanged since the 1920s, has been won by a Danish company.
The Bystrup T-Pylon beat five other finalists in a contest run by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, National Grid and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
National Grid will now work with Bystrup to develop the T-Pylon design further. Ruth Reed, RIBA immediate past president, told Channel 4 News: “More pylons are needed, and the competition was launched to improve on the existing model.
“National Grid are going to take a very serious look at it, with the intention of using it in preference to the old model.”
Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said: “We are going to need a lot more pylons over the next few years to connect new energy to our homes and businesses, and it is important that we do this in the most beautiful way possible.”
There are more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on National Grid’s main transmission network in England and Wales.
The new design is shorter and lighter than the present pylon model. National Grid Executive Director Nick Winser said: “The simplicity of the design means it would fit into the landscape more easily.
Pylons are just part of the story of our relationship with our surroundings. Michael Czerwinski, Design Museum
“In addition, the design of the electrical components is genuinely innovative and exciting.”
But Michael Czerwinski, of London’s Design Museum, disputes the view that the purpose of any new pylon design is to blend into its background.
“The idea of it being less obstrusive is an interesting selling point. It will still have a visual impact. It’s an interesting stance to suggest that things that interrupt the landscape should be invisible or apologetic,” he told Channel 4 News.
“The vast majority of our rural landscapes are man-made. Pylons are just part of the story of our relationship with our surroundings.”
Not everyone agrees that overground pylons are the way forward. Tom Leveridge, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, told Channel 4 News: “We welcome the competition and efforts to improve design and the impact of pylons on the landscape. But any new pylons are an unwelcome intrusion.
“The ideal solution would be to see any new power cables buried underground. That would take away the problem completely.”
RIBA’s Ruth Reed disagrees. “On a day when the cost of energy is a highly sensitive issue, the fact that undergrounding costs 10 times more than pylons is highly significant.
“In all things you have to have a balance, and we will continue to have overground delivery of electricity.”