EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final part of a series. Last week: Europe Needs Transmission Expansion.
In many European countries, grid expansion projects are stalling due to a lack of public acceptance towards new power lines. In Denmark, the very same issues were solved years ago by introducing new pylon designs.
Almost 20 years ago, the Danish transmission system operator faced the same complications many other countries are currently dealing with. Lack of public acceptance became such a dominating issue that the TSO was unable to obtain permission for new lines, hindering expansion of the grid.
After the continued lack of progress, the Danish Parliament became involved. In 2001, the Ministry of Energy and Environment organized an international competition in cooperation with the Danish TSO, to find a new pylon design that would be popular among the public. The competition turned out a great success; the locals embraced the new design and the barriers were removed for the TSO, who could now obtain permission for the project.
In 2007, a plan was set out in Parliament for future grid expansion. The TSO proposed to politicians seven different possibilities for future grid expansion. The options ranged from solutions with 100 percent underground cabling to 100 percent overhead transmission lines. Each scenario was accompanied by the associated costs and presented to the Danish Parliament.
In the end, the Parliament chose a compromise between overhead lines and underground cabling: new lines below 400 kilovolt should be undergrounded, while lines carrying 400 kilovolt or more should be installed as overhead lines. It was further agreed to strive for using new pylon design for new lines. There was consensus on these questions across all parties in the Parliament - something very uncommon in other European countries.
Today, innovative pylon design is prospering in Denmark. In March this year, a new line of pylons has been energized. The line forms the backbone of the Danish transmission grid and connects Denmark to Norway and Germany. The design won the Good Practice of the Year Award, awarded by the EU affiliate, Renewables Grid Initiative. The new line was inaugurated by Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Haakon of Norway, emphasizing the significance of the international grid expansion. New pylon design has spread to the UK as well, where the T-Pylon is currently being erected.
Attempts are being made in other European countries to create new designs that improve on the traditional lattice tower. However, the vast majority of these designs are only optimized on a single or few parameters, making their implementation unfeasible in real life.
With the first energized lines using new designs, Denmark is the first-mover in this area and has experienced great success by introducing innovative pylons that are improved in every single aspect. Other countries are now starting to open their eyes to the advances made in Denmark, a progress that will hopefully continue as the pressure to find solutions increases.
Erik Bystrup is the founder of BYSTRUP, a Danish architecture and planning firm.
BYSTRUP's new book, Power Pylons of the Future, features many intriguing insights. For example:
- Europe needs 100,000 new pylons by 2020.
- To link new renewables, Europe needs new transmission lines equal to double the distance from London to Perth, also by 2020.