Having missed March and with April nearly half gone, I was determined to get a new pylon on the blog and so this month's pylon is another one sent in by a fan. It comes freighted with historical significance as the excerpt from the email that accompanied the picture shows.
Pylon of the Month
Walking down Holywell Lane through Lighmoor, Telford.
Beside a path followed by Cinderloo protesters 200 years ago stands a sturdy oak.
A witness to the anger of the colliers and the retribution wreaked on them by the local yeomanry.
The oak looks shocked, its limbs jolted by the electrical waves transmitted by the pylon.
Perhaps waking from a nightmare, reminded of a vision of poverty and despair that it observed in February 1821.
Coming originally from Manchester, I'd heard of Peterloo, but Cinderloo was new to me. A quick Google search leads to https://cinderloo.com where you learn that
February's Pylon of the Month comes courtesy of Physics students at The Angmering School in West Sussex. As a Physics teacher myself, how could I resist a picture that came about as a result of learning about electricity transmission? In fact, as some readers will know, Pylon of the Month in its current incarnation came about because of a website of the same name that I used when teaching electricity. When it stopped working back in 2008, I decided to do something about it and the rest is history. At this point, being in teacher mode, I'll link again to the excellent and informative article from Drax power station about the history of the pylon.
It is thanks to these students that I have now heard of Angmering and a bit of time on Wikipedia quickly led me to the fact that Stanley Holloway spent the final years of his life there. Stanley and I have a bit of history - his monologue 'Albert & the Lion' is one I remember from childhood and having grown up in and around Ramsbottom, the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Ramsbottom are the parents of Albert makes it all the more memorable. If I'm honest, I'd always assumed that Stanley Holloway was a northerner but now discover that he was born in Essex and lived all of his life down South. That's what I like about writing Pylon of the Month - I learn something new and interesting every month.
Don't forget that my 'The Secret Life of Pylons' book with Unbound needs all the help it can get it it is ever to become a reality!
January's Pylon of the Month comes from a fan of the website who was driving through Scotland when a perfect pylon moment occurred. The email that came with the photo captures that moment perfectly:
Scotland, Tuesday, 1st January 2019, New Year’s Day, driving home from Wester Ross to East Lothian southwards down the A9 (mercifully quiet). It was early afternoon, on a stretch of that great road that is wonderfully rugged and remote, just before the turn off for Dalwhinnie. The giant pylons which run along above the A9 seem to add to the drama of the landscape, but at this moment, the sunlight caught the cables, and lit them like strands of gossamer. It was like a mystical fairground on those hills. Fortunately, Lay-by 90 cropped up and I was able to draw off and get out to capture them before the moment moved on and the spectacle was gone.
The email continued with sentiments that pylon fans everywhere will endorse:
You either love these giants, or hate them. Personally, I think they enhance the sheer rugged grandeur of this landscape. They stride along above the road; they are all giant, but there are the really tall ones, but also the shorter ones; ones with all legs the same height, others with two short legs, fitting into the uneven terrain. An amazing feat of engineering.
Pylon fans who want to check them out will also be able to visit the famous Dalwhinnie distillery for a wee dram or two of their 'Winter's Gold' - An indulgent, honeyed Dalwhinnie that is comforting, rich and sweet, with notes of heather and peat and a spicy warmth. Who could ask for anything more at this time of year? On that thought, I'll leave it there for now. As always, @pylonofthemonth on Twitter has more regular pylon action for those who can't wait until February.
November was another pylonless month and with December rushing by, I decided that action had to be taken to ensure that two fallow months in succession didn't come to pass. A recent email inspired this month's post:
I wrote a poem about a pylon and was wondering if you would like to feature it on your blog? I live in Manchester, and the poem was inspired by a specific pylon in Sale Water Park.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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......