In pictures: The world’s first T-pylon is built in Somerset

Construction starts near East Huntspill

The world’s first T-pylon, the first new design for an electricity pylon in Great Britain for nearly a century, has been erected in Somerset as part of National Grid’s Hinkley Connection Project.

It will be one of 116 T-pylons along a 57km route, connecting low carbon energy to six million UK homes and businesses. The T-pylons have a single pole and T-shaped cross arms which hold the wires in a diamond ‘earring’ shape. They are 35 metres high, a third shorter than National Grid’s traditional lattice pylons, and have a smaller footprint using less land.

The Hinkley Connection Project, is a £900m investment to connect low carbon electricity from Hinkley Point C power station and other renewable sources in the south west. The T-pylons will run between Bridgwater and Portbury, with a short section of underground cables through the Mendip Hills AONB. The project also includes the removal of 249 electricity pylons between Bridgwater and Avonmouth.

The new pylon design was selected from over 250 designs entered into an international competition run in 2011, organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects and government (the then Department of Energy and Climate Change). With a need for new energy infrastructure to enable progress towards net zero.  The competition sought a new design to reduce impact on the local environment and surroundings.

T pylons form part of a suite of technologies used by National Grid to mitigate the impact of electricity infrastructure, including alternative lattice pylon designs and different types of underground and subsea cable systems. The appropriate approach for each new development or upgrade is assessed on a case-by-case basis, with each technology used based where it is operationally possible and cost efficient for electricity consumers. Currently there are no other planned sections of T-pylons.

We are always looking for new ways to mitigate the impact of our infrastructure on the natural environment. T-pylons are a great example.

Construction of the first 48 T-pylons by Balfour Beatty on behalf of National Grid began last week near East Huntspill, with each pylon taking roughly 5 days to build. Construction of the remaining 68 pylons, north of Sandford will begin in 2022.

Chris Bennett, Acting President, National Grid Electricity Transmission said: “We are always looking for innovative new ways to mitigate the impact of our infrastructure on the natural environment and projects such as T pylons are a great example.

This new design forms part of our significant investment in the network in England and Wales, adding capacity onto the grid to deliver increasing amounts of low carbon energy and support the UK’s drive towards its net zero target.”

Matt Steele, Balfour Beatty’s Managing Director for its Rail and Utilities business, said: “Our unique capability and extensive experience in delivering major, complex overhead line schemes, makes us ideally positioned to play a key role in constructing the world’s first T-pylons.

“We look forward to working with National Grid to successfully and safely deliver low-carbon electricity to millions of people, supporting the UK’s net zero ambitions.”

The Hinkley Connection project will be ready to connect to Hinkley Point C by the end of 2024, with the project complete at the end of 2025.

Inspecting the T-pylon stem

The first section is placed on the pile cap

Lifting of the signature T-shaped cross arms

The cross arms are lifted into place

The signature T-shape is completed

The diamond shaped insulators, which will hold the wires are prepared ready to lift

The diamond shaped insulators are lifted and hung

The T-pylon structure is completed, ready for the wires to be hung in 2022