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London Array Concept, Kent, United Kingdom

Tuesday 17 Mar 2009

Blown away by beach huts

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Traditional English iconography inspires cosmetic design of wind farm substation 

UK-based international architectural practice RMJM has revealed the architectural concept design for a new onshore substation for London Array, the largest consented offshore wind farm in Europe.

The London Array project, located between the Kent and Essex coasts, will be a major generator of sustainable energy in the UK and responds to the wider global agenda to reduce CO2 emissions. Ultimately it will generate 1,000MW of electricity, serving the needs of 750,000 homes – equivalent to approximately a quarter of households in Greater London or all of the homes in Kent and East Sussex.

Once completed, the wind farm’s power will be fed to a substation at Cleve Hill near Graveney, which will connect to the National Grid’s 400kV transmission system to feed power into the UK’s electricity network. RMJM’s design shields the transformers, electrical switchgear and back-up electrical generators, offering protection to the equipment as well as creating a sculptural focal point on the landscape. Visible from the popular Saxon Shore Way footpath located a kilometre away across agricultural land it is the intention that RMJM’s design will become an architectural landmark in the region.

The concept for the new substation took inspiration from a line of beach hunts located immediately east of the site. RMJM’s design features a series of modular structures, creating a 160m long x 9m high rhythmic line of solids and voids, screening the onshore components of the wind farm. The design alternates between exposed aggregate concrete panels that protect the transformers located behind them and anodised aluminium screens that are positioned at different angles, creating kinetic movement throughout the design. The structures are raised on a 2.4m concrete plinth that acts as a flood alleviation barrier and echoes the sea wall running alongside the Saxon Shore Way path.

Planning permission for the substation was granted in August 2007 and was subject to a number of planning conditions which included the submission of further detail on the substations design. Following local consultation the relevant information was submitted and the planning condition recently discharged. Work on the substation is intended to start later this year.

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