Travel

Pylon of the Month - February 2021

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February's pylon comes all the way from Melbourne, Australia and was taken during August last year in the suburb of Park Orchards, some 17 km from the city centre. It really is a stunning photograph that captures the night sky beautifully in a 5-second exposure shot at ISO 2000 with a 14mm f2.8 prime lens and Canon full frame camera. Details like that in the email to which the photograph was attached tell me that this was taken by an accomplished photographer and you can verify that for yourself by going to Instagram @pk____photography. The email continued:

"Since we are presently in Covid lockdown here in Melbourne and can't go more than 5km from home, my photographic opportunities are limited. We did have a fairly clear night recently with a new moon, so I thought I would try this shot to contrast human vs cosmic power"

Increase in astronomy has increased significantly during lockdown and for any UK pylon fans looking to learn more, I would highly recommend the Society for Popular Astronomy.

One of the great things about writing this blog is that the pylons I post lead me down interesting internet highways and byways and I always learn something new. In this case, a quick look at the fascinating 'Guide to Australia’s Energy Networks', led me to the discovery that Australia has some 500 kV overhead lines as part of the transmission network (compared to the UK where we only go up to 400 kV). A bit more digging led me to Moorabool Shire Council's September 2020 'Comparison of 500 kV Overhead Lines with 500 kV Underground Cables' which is part of the Western Victoria Renewable Integration Project whose aim is:

to address transmission network limitations.....the driver and benefits of this Project are to unlock up to 6GW of renewable energy sources, predominantly wind and solar generation, in North West of Victoria.

Reading on (it really is quite a fascinating report.....) led me to the discovery that Ultra High Voltage (UHV) AC power transmission is defined as 500 kV or over. The UK's 400 kV lines are merely EHV (Extra High Voltage) and I assumed this was because the distances over which we have to transmit electricity in the UK are considerably shorter than in larger countries.  The countries that are currently operating transmission network at UHV levels are Ukraine and Poland at 750 kV, South Korea at 765 kV, Brazil at 800 kV, China, Japan and Russia at 1,000 kV, with India is currently conducting experiments and planning for a transmission network at 1,200 kV. That theory about UHV corresponding to longer transmission distances holds up in some cases, but a quick Google tells me that that the UK is 144% larger than South Korea. More work is required here at some point because when I Googled "UHV South Korea" I was met by a wall of information and if I'd dived down that internet rabbit hole I might not have emerged for some time.

The Moorabool Sire Council report also includes this moving picture ( amongst others) of a fallen 500 kV pylon, felled in its prime by a storm in January 2020.

Capture

The conclusion of the report includes this assessment:

A feasible alternative to the proposed 500 kV double circuit overhead line would be 500 kV double circuit underground cable. Whilst this would be approximately ten times more expensive than an overhead line, the overall cost impact could be reduced by placing only the most sensitive sections underground. Although using underground cable for a portion of the route is not a simple solution it appears to be technically feasible.

Plenty to chew on there for the next few weeks so that's all for this month. See you in March!

 


Thumbnail_P1440367 A forest of pylons on the approach to Minster

October's Pylon of the Month is a readers' choice. Look at the amazing image and the "three parallel parades of pylons" as the fan who sent the picture in called them in a pleasingly alliterative phrase. Once you've looked for long enough to appreciate the beauty of the image, choose the one you want to be your own personal pylon of the month - I'm avoiding the obvious 132 kV choices in the foreground and going for the 400 kV wide boy on the far right of the picture with two lines on one cross arm.  Why it's constructed like that is something that I'd like to find out more about.

The pylons can be found in the fields between the villages of Plucks Gutter and Minster.  The hamlet of Plucks Gutter is, according to Wikipedia:

..named after a Dutch Drainage Engineer called Ploeg, whose grave is in All Saints Church, West Stourmouth. Ploeg, being the Dutch for a plough, the hamlet takes its origins from the Dutch Protestant tradition of draining marshland by creating a ploughed ditch

In this era of fake news, I'll mention that the Wikipedia page notes that a citation is needed to substantiate this story and as this note was made in September 2016 and no verification has been added, caution is needed if you are ever tempted to hold forth at a party about the origin of place names in Kent.

The fan who sent the picture spotted them whilst walking the Augustine Camino, a new pilgrimage route in Kent from Rochester to Ramsgate.  A quick look at the open infrastructure map for the area shows the parallel lines very clearly with the 400 kV Richborough connection in purple and two 132 kV lines (Canterbury North - Richborough and Richborough - Monkton). 

Pylon

It also shows Richborough power station which closed in 1996, although the national grid interconnector from the original power station is still in place, and is now the grid link for the offshore Thanet wind farm. The 1000 MW HVDC from Belgium also makes landfall on the site and is known as the Nemo link.  As a Physics teacher, High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) is pretty high up the list of things that I want to understand better and this article from the Powermag website looks like a good starting point.  The icing on the electrical cake is a couple of nearby solar farms - plenty to see if you fancy a pylon field trip to the area.  I certainly do - Kent is one of the areas of the UK that I know least about so I'll add it to my growing list of things to do once normality returns.

 


Pylon of the Month - March 2020

South

March was slipping away, but like an awful lot of people, I find myself spending more time at home and so there really is no excuse not to get writing.  Normal life may be suspended for a lot of us at the moment, but the people working at power stations are vital and so their work goes on as, I'm sure, does the work of anyone working on the electricity distribution system.  They deserve our grateful thanks.
 
March's pylon was sent in by a fan of the website earlier this month after he was distracted on an early morning run near the River Tyne.  The pylon above is on the south side of the river, but there was also a picture of the pylon on the north bank which I've included at the foot of this post.  They are wonderfully atmospheric images and I'm afraid that I can't resist the urge to include a link to Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne, the English folk rock band from Newcastle Upon Tyne.
 
The email that I received also included the revelation that: 
 
.....as a former electricity network company (Northern Powergrid) employee and long-term energy networks geek, I have only recently discovered your pylon of the month page, and am disappointed that I have been missing out for so long!
 
I'm delighted to welcome another pylon fan into the fold.  The email went on to say that "This is not far from the Stella North and Stella South GSPs". For those not in the electricity distribution game (me included - thank you Google), GSP is an acronym for Grid Supply Point and is a "Systems Connection Point at which the Transmission System is connected to a Distribution System". I'm not sure that I'm too much the wiser as a result of having looked it up, but as a result of doing so I did discover that Stella North and Stella South were two power stations that have now been demolished.   Stella South, a coal-fired 300 MW power station, was built on the site of the famous Blaydon races which gives me an excuse for another musical interlude.  It has been replaced by a housing estate.
 
That's all for now, although with only a week of March left, you won't have to wait too long for another pylon.  Until then, stay safe.
 
 
North (1)
 
 
 

Pylon of the Month - February 2020

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After a dry January on the pylon front (but not on the alcohol front....), February's pylon is a cracker. As with so many of the pictures on the blog, it was provided by a fan of the website and the email that accompanied the picture is an inspiration to pylon fans everywhere.
 
We've always had a fascination with pylons, living on a farm as kids we'd often walk out into the fields and stand under them and marvel. 
 
The picture was taken near the village of Claxton in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire.  My only visit to that area was nearly 25 years ago and a bit of Googling led me to the place I stayed; The White Swan in Pickering.  It was easy to track down because just about the only thing I remembered about the stay was the great selection of St. Emillion wines.  It's good to see that nothing has changed in the intervening years on the wine front!
 
Anyway back to the pylons and to the information provided by the photographer.
 
Two high voltage power lines cross paths, and in order to allow one to pass under the other a large pylon has been constructed for one power line, while the other power line has been split into two smaller pylons that pass under the higher power line. 
 
Then there is a lyrical passage that will surely elicit nods of recognition from readers of this blog.
 
I think there is a beauty to this structure. Firstly in a mathematical sense, the symmetry of this arrangement of the pylons and the geometric shapes constructing the individual objects. But also in the sense of how these gentle giants contrast so heavily with their natural surroundings but managed to blend in so unnoticed by so many as if they were simply trees that had always been there. There's also the fact that these objects hold such importance to everyday life, and that hours upon hours of thought will of gone into the placement and design of this structure at the hands of engineers - only for them to peacefully blend away to the countryside: noticed by only a few.
 
Prompted by the mention of the word symmetry above, I'll finish for this month with a hiveminer generated collection of beautiful symmetrical pylon images.  
 
Pylons
 
 
 
 
 

Pylon of the Month - September 2019

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This month's pylon is from Italy and will be particularly appreciated by pylon fans of a bibulous disposition. It was sent in by a fan of the website and was taken in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy.  In particular,  the vineyards of Barbaresco, and according to wine-searcher:

Barbaresco is one of the great wines of the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. Historically it was called Nebbiolo di Barbaresco (Nebbiolo being the grape it's made from) and was used by the Austrian General Melas to celebrate his victory over the French in 1799.

Such is the beauty and distinctiveness of this part of the world, that in 2014 it was recognised as a World Heritage Site because '......the Piedmont vineyards provide outstanding living testimony to winegrowing and winemaking traditions that stem from a long history, and that have been continuously improved and adapted up to the present day'.

So pylon fans heading for this part of the world can tick off the rather splendid asymmetric pylons in the vineyard before retiring to a bar to sample the local wine.  In doing so, it would be wise to ensure that the difference between the two local wines Barolo and Barbaresco is properly appreciated.  

The main difference in Barolo and Barbaresco is in the soils. The soil in Barbaresco is richer in nutrients and, because of this, the vines don’t produce as much tannin as found in the wines of Barolo. Both wines smell of roses, perfume and cherry sauce — and they both have a very long finish. The difference is in the taste on the mid-palate; the tannin won’t hit you quite as hard in the Barbaresco.

The quote above is from wine folly and with plenty of wine recommendations to try out, oenophile pylon fans will be in heaven.


Pylon of the Month - July 2019

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July's pylon is another Wiltshire pylon and the red sky and clouds provide a beautiful backdrop to its lovely silhouette.  There is definitely something here for the cloud spotters and the photographers, but you can pick out the Stockbridge dampers and two sets of ceramic insulator discs so there is also something there for hardcore pylon spotters.  It was sent in by a fan of the website and is on the A350 in Chippenham, near the Premier Inn.  Pylon fans seeking an excuse for a road trip could do worse than heading down the M4 to Chippenham, which :

....enjoys a reputation as a flourishing and lively market town, with a compact centre and thriving commercial life, it has been granted Purple Flag Status for its nightlife.

Never heard of the Purple Flag Scheme? No, me neither so let's educate ourselves via the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM) website:

The Purple Flag standard, launched in 2012, is an accreditation process similar to the Green Flag award for parks and the Blue Flag for beaches. It allows members of the public to quickly identify town & city centres that offer an entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable night out.  

Once you've ticked the pylon off your to do list and perhaps enjoyed a night out in Chippenham there  are plenty of places to visit because:

The great houses and art treasures of Longleat, Bowood, Corsham Court, Lacock Abbey and Dyrham Park are within easy reach, as is Castle Combe Racing Circuit.

That's all folks - more pylon action next month or if you really can't wait then go to @pylonofthemonth on Twitter.


Pylon of the Month - February 2019

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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!




Pylon of the Month January 2019

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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.


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.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 21.00.47

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 - July 2018

GoldenGatePylon

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/