Put power lines underground
Vast swathes of the British countryside are set to be blighted by hundred's of super-pylons needed to carry electricity from offshore windfarms to the National Grid.
Cherished views of outstanding national beauty from the Lake District to Snowdonia to Suffolk and Somerset will be scarred by National Grid's intention to build nearly 1000 of the 160ft pylons.
Pylons are technology that dates from the 1960's and should be obsolete like typewriters. The UK is changing to renewable electricity generation but has no plans to change transmission technology. This is madness. All new power lines should go underground. The extra cost is very small about £10 per household for all the new power lines planned. We must protect our countryside for future generations and avoid the health risks of electromagnetic radiation.
Vote to put power lines underground.
Steve Bridger commented
Underground or subsea please. Let's plan for the 21st century, not the 1950s. And joined up thunking & budgeting. Be brave.
Social and Class commentary aside (and valid commentary at that), actually, John, Europe buries their *Distribution Level* electrical utilities all the time. I saw above ground *Transmission Level* electical utilities all over Europe.
The difference is this...if the distance to transmit the power is short, Voltage levels can be kept low enough to insulate the wires, and therefor bury them.
If the distances are long, then the voltage is raised to compensate for voltage drop and to keep the current low, so as to limit the diameter of the wires (and the cost). Remember, Watts equals Voltage X Current. So, if the voltages are too high, then they put them on Towers, using air and seperation distance as a dielectric insulator. As you hinted, much is about class and money. The rest is about technology (and money).
John Graham commented
Ever asked why the County of Surrey undergrounded all their cables a couple of years ago for aesthetic reasons. Could it be that that is where the directors of the power companies live? I can't for the life of me see how the overcrowded South east of England is more deserving than The Cairngorms, The Lake district and Snowdonia. As to the technology. Europe does it all the time, but it became apparent during the application for the Beauly Denny Line that we are using technology twenty years out of date.
Yes it would be much better to put all utilities underground, and certainly Distribution-Level (220 to about 7000volts) electric feeds can and should be buried (this is possible because the wires can be covered with insulating materials like vinyl, silicon, and rubber). The problem is Transmission-Level electric lines (120,000 volts to 1,000,000 volts) typically can only be insulated from eachother with air and distance, which is why the pylons or towers are so big and the wires are so far apart, and have such really long ceramic insulator hangers (the voltages used would breach most of the insulating materials currently available). Theoretically, you could put these underground if you built very large diameter tunnels underground...I think that the cost would be much higher than 10 pounds per household.
On the radiation issue, the jury is still out on long term health effects of proximal electromagnetic radiation at the frequencies used for power (50 to 60 Hz), however, sitting at your desk, in front of a CRT (if anyone still has one) exposes you to far more of this stuff at higher frequencies than walking around under one of these Transmission Pylons or Towers.
One way to limit the proliferation of ugly infrastructure in these times of 'Consume-More-and-More' is to consume less.
Shawn Ravenfire commented
Shawn Ravenfire I'm not sure it would be safer to have underground. One one hand, underground power lines are more suceptible to water leaking in, if damaged, and causing a major short. And it would certainly cause a lot more diffuculty in spotting damage and repairing it. I suppose the ground might block some of the electromagnetic radiation (I'm not a scientist, so I don't really know), but then people might find themselves standing closer to them without knowing it. At least when we can see them, we know where they are. And then there's the risk of animals getting into the wiring and chewing on them. But then, I'm no engineer either.
Why spoil our countryside and views with these monstrous metal contraptions. Yes it may cost more to bury them underground or lay them out to sea, but surely our health and the future of rural England is more important that PLC profits.
Fiona Gerardin commented
I have never understood why it is not mandatory...
Geoff Dunford commented
It is common sense to put power lines underground...hence the reason it hasn't been done in this country.......
Mark Vine commented
Wi/Win situation. The countryside gets more beautiful and .... lots of work for archaeologists who will be required to watch every inch of what's being dug up, which will enhance our knowledge of the past.
Candia McKormack commented
Protect both our countryside AND the nation's health and put the power lines underground. The alternative is quite simply unacceptable
Recommend this very readable report from Greenpeace which demonstrates how moving away from super-pylons to a European-wide smart grid linking renewable energy sources across a wide region is not only possible but makes sense:
"Today, Europe’s electricity grid is characterised by big, polluting power stations pumping out constant energy, regardless of consumer need, along a wasteful, aging A/C (alternating current) network. The patchwork of national grids stitched together over the years is an uncomfortable, uneconomical fit....
This groundbreaking report demonstrates...that Europe is capable of moving smoothly to a system that delivers nearly 100 percent renewable power around the clock."
The wealthy politicians who collude in this environmental vandalism should be made to pay from their personal fortunes for the damage to be repaired.
John Graham commented
The Beauly Denny Line was passed despite the many thousands of objectors. The Ministers report was spineless in the extreme. Not one metre of the line was underground despite large parts of it passing through the Caingorm National Park, by Battlefields and within close proximity to the Wallace memorial. He meeklu asked SSE to use what mitagation they could. Needless to say they totally ignored him. Democracy, I don't think so!
I share the same concerns as Rosa, but if the Risk's of electromagnetic radiation are not "significantly substantial" then this seems like a great Idea.
As an environmental scientist I am concerned about the potential human health impacts from electromagnetic radiation from these pylons - undersea would be best unless it can be proven beyond doubt that they are safe. There are some studies suggesting a link between electromagnetic radiation and miscarriages, electrosensitivity e.g. migraines, headaches, tinnitus in humans... Under the European precautionary principle, if there is a risk from a hazard it should be avoided unless it can be proven beyond doubt that there is no risk. At the least there should be a buffer zone around pylons of at least 50 m. I need to hear the research on underground cables, but I suspect that the radiation risk is still there if they are underground - it's just that they are out of sight, out of mind like so many things - toxic pesticides, nuclear power, landfill sites, sewage works...!
Of course we need to preserve the countryside for future generations, and I feel sorry for people who have bought a house with a view of a proposed power line - it seems so unfair to have your house price slashed with no compensation for it.
Anthony Butcher commented
I can't believe that they are even contemplating a new swathe of pylons. Let's keep the North Somerset countryside intact please!
I object to these new mega pylons destroying the appearance of our beautiful landscape which is our responsibility to protect for future generations plus the possible long term health issues that these pylons can cause to those living within the vicinity of them. Surely it is worth £10 per household to avoid this happening by positioning the power lines underground.
Roy .H.Stephens commented
It is so important to put the power line underground to save lives and very serious health problems to young and old for future Centuires to come .
Although probabaly a little more expensive the cost would be well worth it and recovered by much lower maintenance costs with savings made for repairs to overhead lines such as occured during the most recent Cold and Snowfalls experienced this year.
Sarah Peel commented
Why not ask Barclay's to foot the extra bill? Seems they've enough profit...
Jenny Campbell commented
Underground or subsea is the only option.