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The Grid

The drive to meet low carbon targets is reaching significant levels of success through the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. There are a number of stumbling blocks- a vocal minority objecting to wind farms is one. More significantly the need to be able to transport the electricity from where it is generated to where it is used raises significant opposition to power lines. The Beauly-Denny upgrade was ten years in planning and has been over three years since then in getting to start and complete construction.

Off shore wind generation will require significant increase in the capacity of the national grid, and exporting that resource to England or beyond to the continent will require upgrade of the grid south of the Border. The commencement of significant tidal and wave power installations in the Pentland Firth and the Northern and Western Isles all of which have to send power across very sensitive environmental regions increases the challenge.

National Grid Coldstream May 2010 5

Upgrading of the existing East Coast grid connection between Scotland and England 2010 just North of Coldstream

Why can’t we just bury the cables? The prime reason is cost. Also our very variable climate is less suitable than areas with continental climate for avoiding cable damage underground. Buried cables do not dissipate heat in the same way as aerial cabling.

What would happen if there were a more imaginative approach to pylon design? Here are three designs from engineering firm Arup, and Icelandic design competition and Korean Architect Yong ho Shin.

Arup's design for a better pylon

Icelandic high voltage pylon design competition

Korean Pylon by architect Yong ho Shin

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