Designs for a new T-shaped pylon yesterday failed to win over campaigners against a new network of electricity cables across large areas of Wales.
The Danish T-shaped design has been selected by the Department of Energy and Climate Change following an international competition to replace the existing pylons that have been used in the UK for decades.
National Grid will now work with the design company Bystrup to develop the T-Pylon further.
Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: “Its ingenious structure also means that it will be much shorter and smaller than existing pylons and therefore less intrusive.
“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 is in the most beautiful way possible.”
Ruth Reed, Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) immediate past president, said: “The potential to reduce the size and height of pylons, and consequently their impact on the landscape and the amount of materials in their construction, made this scheme a clear winner for me.”
However, campaigners who fear that plans for new wind farms and a possible substation in Mid Wales threaten to damage the beauty of the landscape remain opposed to the installation of miles of new pylons.
Lance Mytton, a trustee of the Cambrian Mountains Society who, as reported yesterday, attended the House of Commons to oppose the planned Nant y Moch wind farm, argued that energy should be supplied underground
He said: “I think the real question is: do we really need pylons? Why do we continue to litter some of our best landscapes with them, when it is perfectly possible to build an underground network?”
Conservative Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies said the new design was an improvement on today’s pylons but he remained opposed to major new installations in Mid Wales.
He said: “I think Mid Wales as we know it is at stake. It will completely change the landscape as we know it.”
Norman Seward, civil and construction engineering programme leader at the University of Wales, Newport, was impressed by the winning design.
He said: “Speaking as a structural engineer, the number one priority for the design is one of stability. The pylon must be able to carry the weight of its power cables in all weathers, resisting the forces of nature which range from gale force winds, freezing snow in winter and heat in the summer.
“What about earthquakes and flooding?”
Describing the pros and cons of present pylons, he said: “They are made from steel angle sections and are therefore light yet strong. They are unobtrusive, as from a distance you can see right through them.
“But they are expensive to fabricate and maintain and yes, they look dated. Bystrup’s T-Pylon is innovative, elegant, unobtrusive, shorter and more compact than the existing design. It can be painted to match the surrounding countryside and it will be designed to resist all natural and man-made forces to which it is likely to be exposed.”
The competition was run by DECC, National Grid, and the Royal Institute of British Architects. There were 250 entries and the winning company will receive £5,000.
National Grid plans to work with Ian Ritchie Associates on its “silhouette” design, and New Town Studio’s “totem” model.
National Grid executive director Nick Winser said: “We are genuinely delighted at the prospect of working with all three companies to develop some real options for the future.”