Pylon of the Month - October 2018

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September flashed by without a pylon and October was in danger of doing the same until I was reminded by my eldest son of a promise I had made about a pylon picture he took recently on his travels in the USA.  You can see it above in all its watery glory, but if you want to see it in real life then a trip to New Orleans will be required.  When you get there, grab a boat tour of the Louisiana swamps and there is a fair chance that as well as spotting some alligators you will get lucky and spot a pylon.  They are sited on top of platforms and I'd like to know more about the underwater engineering that goes into keeping them above water and perpendicular.  

Whilst you are in Louisiana, head to the pylons at Lake Pontchartrain and whilst en route keep an eye out for telegraph poles that look like Jesus, as reported in this Daily Telegraph article.  Once you arrive at your destination, if you read this article from metabunk, you'll understand how to prove that the earth is curved rather than flat.

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I like the sound of Metabunk, run by @MickWest (author of 'Escaping the Rabbit Hole')

Metabunk.org is dedicated to the art and pastime of honest, polite, scientific investigating and debunking. It is primarily a discussion forum, however the focus is on providing concise useful resources, and attempting to avoid repetitive debate and arguments.

I also like the thought of pylons serving a purpose other than their essential role in electricity transmission. 


Pylon of the Month - August 2018

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August's Pylon of the Month is another first because it features a temporary pylon.  By the time you read this, it might already be too late to see it in real life but rest assured that if reports of any other temporary pylons come into Pylon HQ, I'll be sure to get the news out on Twitter @pylonofthemonth. The picture arrived via email with a comment that:
 
The installation of a temporary pylon to allow repair of the main one is new to me but probably old hat to a pylon aficionado.
 
Actually, it was the first time I've seen a temporary pylon in action and so I'm very grateful for the picture.  You can clearly see where the wires have come off the main pylon leaving just the ceramic insulator discs hanging on.  The reason for that is explained on a National Grid information sheet
 
 
The refurbishment is carried out as two separate periods of work. This is because overhead lines have two circuits, one on each side of the pylon, so work is carried out on one side only, in order that the other side can be kept ‘live’. Once all the work has been completed on one side of the overhead line, the circuit is re-energised, and the opposite side is switched off so that the work can be carried out on that side.
 
The same information sheet reveals that "pylons will last for about 80 years, whereas the conductors, insulators and fittings normally last for about 40 years. Therefore each overhead line will usually go through at least one refurbishment during its lifespan".
 
The temporary pylon is (or perhaps was) in Pembrokeshire on the northern of the two runs from Pembroke power station, the largest gas-fired power station in Europe which opened in 2012.  If you do want to rack it down, then the Grid reference is SN 16483 10847 and you can use this website to get a good view of the pylons.
 

 


Pylon of the Month - July 2018

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Summer is here and so a picture of a pylon with blue skies and sea featuring prominently would always have stood a chance of making it onto the website.  Having the Golden Gate bridge in the background made it a shoo-in. The picture was sent in by a young electrical engineer on secondment from Australia to California Independent System Operator, which according to Bloomberg is a nonprofit public benefit corporation, [which] operates long-distance and high-voltage power lines.  The suggestion in the email was that the power lines are 6.6kV (6600 Volts for the less electrically aware readers of this blog if such readers exist.....), and I'm certainly not going to argue with this analysis.

Power supply in California is an interesting topic. Bloomberg again:

California just mandated that nearly all new homes have solar, starting in less than two years. Now, it’s going to have to figure out what to do with all of that extra energy.

The San Francisco Chronicle has this headline on an article from May 2018.

California’s power grid is changing fast, and ‘we don’t have a plan’

The main aim of the changes is to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions, which is to be applauded but chasing down the implications of this decision and making it work will be a job for the often unsung heroes of the modern world, electrical engineers.  That's all for this month - as always @pylonofthemonth is on Twitter for those in need of more regular pylon action.

For those looking for pylons in coffee table form then you really need to pledge here

https://unbound.com/books/pylons/

 

 


Pylon of the Month - June 2018

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June's Pylon of the Month comes from the island of Formentera in Spain, which seems entirely appropriate for an early summer pylon. I hope that it's a bit less controversial than April's Pylon which attracted this comment:

I was rather dissatisfied with this months pylon and i am considering if I really wish to renew my subscription. I suggest you get your act together and start finding some proper awe inspiring pylons or I shall give you a slap

Strong words, to which I responded very reasonably, not wanting to initiate a pylon flame war:

Oh well - I aim to please, but if this month's pylon doesn't do it for you then it might be that you are beyond help. Keep reading the blog to see if things improve!

May's Pylon of the Month wasn't even a real pylon as one commenter on Twitter noted, so back to Formentera..................

Formentera, the smallest and least developed of the four main Balearic has fine beaches (and beach clubs) and mud baths, great walking and cycling trails, as well as secluded coves and sleepy fishing villages. It is much less lively than its hedonistic sister, Ibiza, and its peace-loving, beach-lounging devotees wouldn't have it any other way

The pylon enthusiast who provided the picture said that 'It appears to be a 30kV line', an immediate sign that there was technical knowledge behind the lens when the picture was taken.  A quick Google on '30kV lines Formentera' (perhaps the first ever such internet search?) revealed that "Red Eléctrica de España has installed a total of 420 bird-flight diverters on the 30 kV overland stretch of electricity line on the island of Formentera, which forms part of the electricity interconnection with the Ibiza. The diverters have been installed along the 2,100-metre the overhead line running between the coastal arrival point of the electricity interconnection and the Formentera substation". 

Bird flight diverters - how have I not heard of these before? A whole new world of pylon information has just opened up before me.  A bird diverter is:

a device that is attached to a power line or any type of wire suspended in the air to distract and divert birds away from the line, avoiding accidents and fatalities. These are particularly useful for power and communication lines that cross lakes or rivers, where bird tend to flock together

Here is an example of one installed to try and reduce the number of swans flying into power lines across the Fens in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk (from an article in the Eastern Daily Press).

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I'll end with a link to Operation Jimmy, an organisation dedicated to preventing future incidents of bird electrocution following the death of Jimmy, an osprey. Their desire is to see a world in which Ospreys, other birds & electricity to co-exit harmoniously so that 'Jimmy did not die in vain'. Amen to that until next month.

 


Pylon of the Month - May 2018

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It's been a busy month and with only eleven days to go I had a decision to make; wait until June or get a pylon up for May.  Pylon fans everywhere reading this will, I'm sure, be relieved that the latter option was chosen.  This month's pylon is a nod to current affairs, with the pylon on the emblem of North Korea featuring for May 2018.  According to Wikipedia:

The emblem features the Sup'ung dam under Mount Paektu and a power line as the escutcheon. The crest is a five-pointed red star. It is supported with ears of rice, bound with a red ribbon bearing the inscription "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea" in Chosongul characters.

The choice of a power station and a pylon is not without political symbolism:

In the late 1940s, the North produced most of the electricity in the country.  The dam symbolizes self-sufficiency in electricity: in the spring of 1948 shortly before the hydroelectric plant was added to the emblem, North Korea cut off her power network from the South.

It is, however, ironic that the only country to feature a pylon in its national emblem has a pretty patchy record when it comes to reliable power supply.  This article, "Dark nights in power starved North Korea," is one of many describing challenging conditions north of the 38th parallel.  The satellite image below from the Independent in 2015 shows the contrast between North and Soth Korea at night and does a better job than words in summarising the situation. 

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So for most of us, it is a case of thanking our lucky pylons that we live in a country with a reliable electricity supply.  See you next month when I promise to get June's pylon posted sooner rather than later.

 


Pylon of the Month - April 2018

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April's Pylon of the Month was provided by a colleague (@RadleyGeol) on a recent Geology field trip and it breaks new ground for the blog because it is the first one on the website to have been taken by a drone - a DJI Spark 2 no less.  The field trip was taking place at Aust Cliff on the English side of the Severn Estuary and according to the Avon RIGS group (RIGS? Regionally Important Geological & Geomorphological Sites - do keep up):
 
The river cliff at Aust is a spectacular outcrop of Mid and Late Triassic to Early Jurassic sedimentary rocks, an impressive geological archive for tracing the drowning of an ancient hot, arid desert between ca 221 and 195million years ago.
 
Given this, it's easy to see why Geologists would be drawn to it and when you add in the opportunity for a bit of pylon spotting it starts to look like the kind of place that should be on everyone's 'must visit' list.  Not convinced? Well surely even the most sceptical of people will be convinced if I reveal that the Aust Severn powerline crossing has the longest span in the UK at 1,618m and that the pylons themselves are the second tallest in the UK at 148m.  That means it only ranks 28th in the world and pylon enthusiasts looking to travel further afield would do well to check out Wikipedia which lists powerline spans in 'flat areas with high pylons' and 'in mountainous areas requiring shorter pylons'.  China would have to be top of the list of places to visit if you want to tick off as many as possible on the 'flat areas' list although personally, it's the Suez Canal crossing which rather catches my eye.  On the mountainous areas list, Greenland looks like the top contender for pylon related tourism, an as yet untapped market for any would entrepreneurs reading this!
 
Come back next month for more pylon facts and trivia, but in the meantime, don't forget @pylonofthemonth on Twitter.  For those who haven't yet got round to supporting my Pylon book with Unbound. It needs a lot more people to pledge their support if it is ever to become a reality......
 
 
 

Pylon of the Month - March 2018

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 March's Pylon of the Month is one of the most amazing pylon pictures that I've seen.  I came across it on Twitter (thanks to @city_wander) and although on the whole, I don't tend to use images from the internet on the main blog, I couldn't resist this one.  It was taken in California by Will Connell around 1935.  A bit of digging around on the internet revealed that Will Connell was a self taught photographer who was born in 1898 and died in 1961.  This information came from the Will Connell Papers at the Onlive Archive of California, although there is also a Wikipedia page.  I couldn't track down this particular image in the Archive and so I don't have too much more information other than via this website which calls them Edison pylons and says that they are at Seal Beach.  Searching for Edison pylons didn't really lead anywhere other than to this article about Britains rather chaotic electricity generation system which apparently put us at a disadvantage in the First World War.  Here it is for your enjoyment:

BRINGING POWER TO THE PEOPLE – THE DISORDER SURROUNDING BRITAIN’S ELECTRICAL POWER INDUSTRY

I'll leave it there for March and let the amazing Will Connell photograph work its magic.

 


Pylon of the Month - February 2018

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A belated Happy New Year to pylon fans everywhere, but especially to those in Sweden, because that's where February's pylon comes from.  We've had some amazing photographs recently, but I like to keep things real and so this month's pylon is a welcome return to the 'pylon pictures taken from the window of a moving vehicle' category. The last time one of these featured was back in January 2015.  The picture arrived with this message

The pylon design is not common here in Sweden, but I find it quite beautiful. It, and one like it, are placed by the road Norrortsleden in Täby just north of Stockholm. 

There was even a link to Google maps where you can see the pylon (and it's shadow).

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If you happen to be in Sweden and February's pylon (plus it's nearby twin) isn't enough, then there is a chance to see two truly unique pylons.  Here is the low down:

East of Stenkullen in Sweden there are two electricity pylons which are unremarkable when you look at them but they are unique in the world of electrical inventions and devices. The Konti-Skan, a high-voltage direct-current transmission line that runs between Denmark and Sweden is the only electricity pylons in the world that carry both AC and DC circuits.

Transmitting electrical power using Direct Current (DC) electricity might seem a bit strange if you are thinking back to school physics lessons with transformers and Alternating Current (AC). If that's the case, you need to find a friendly electrical engineer and ask them to give you a few lessons on HVDC. The key point is that it can be more efficient over longer distances, but it also allows power transmission between unsynchronized AC transmission systems. If my understanding is correct that is the key issue here when the link is between two different countries (Denmark & Sweden) but perhaps I need to find myself a friendly electrical engineer to check this. That's all for now folks.


Pylon of the Month - December 2017

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As November was pylonless, it only seemed appropriate that December's pylon of the Month should be:

  1. Seasonal.
  2. A fabulous picture.

Just when I was struggling to find a picture that satisfied one of those two criteria never mind both, the picture above popped up in my @pylonofthemonth twitter feed.  It was taken by @RubbishRider and for more wonderful pictures visit https://www.instagram.com/rubbish_rider/

 

The pylon sits above Briviesca, 750m up in the mountains of Northern Spain.  If you are in Spain then as well as this pylon, you could also tick off some pylons that have their own Wikipedia page, although it would involve a long drive to the other end of Spain.  That said, the 158m tall Pylons of Cadiz are surely worth a detour in anyone's book:

The Pylons of Cádiz, also known as the Towers of Cádiz, are two tall pylons supporting a double-circuit 132 kV three-phase AC powerline over the bay of Cádiz, Spain starting at Puerto Real Substation to the substation of the former Cadiz Thermal Power Station situated on the peninsula upon which the city of Cádiz stands

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Merry Christmas to pylon fans everywhere.  Don't forget that I'm working with the lovely people at Unbound to get a pylon book out into the world.  Support the project and I'll be forever grateful.

 

 


Pylon of the Month - October 2017

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October's Pylon of the Month is a picture that I took myself whilst making a short film for the publishers Unbound.  'The Secret Life of Pylons' is now on their website and I'm really hoping that it will get enough support to get published.  If my hunch is right, there's a gap in the market for a book about electricity pylons that combines interesting facts, pylon stories and tongue in cheek humour.  If you're reading this and especially if you're a long time fan of the website, then get pledging on the Unbound website because when it's published that will be Christmas presents for your family and friends well and truly sorted.

But moving away from the glamorous world of publishing and back to the pylon above, which is located in Kennington just outside Oxford.   Follow the cycle path from Oxford city centre (alongside the river) south to Abingdon and you can't miss it near Sandford Lock.  Along the way there are a few other pretty spectacular pylons to tick off as you go.  You can get really up close and personal to this one and appreciate the loveliness of the design and the strange allure that it exudes.  Just don't be tempted to climb it and get too close to the actual transmission lines.  Treat pylons with respect  like the Pylon people of Hookland who worship them.  Whilst you're in the area of Oxford, a quick glance at an OS map will show that this is a pylon rich area.  A lot of this is to do with the proximity of Didcot Power Station.  I've mentioned pylon poetry many times before on this blog, so instead I'll end this month with a poem that should be far better known; Ode to Didcot Power Station by Kit Wright.  Read it online then buy his poetry collection of the same name.