Olympics Watch - Electrical infrastructure

Before construction work could begin on the London Olympic Park the electrical infrastructure needed to be put in place, as E&T discovers.

From the moment that International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge announced in July 2005 that the UK, or, more accurately, London, was to host the 2012 Olympics, the race was on to ensure that the electrical infrastructure in east London could support the requirements of the proposed high-tech 2.5sq km Olympic Park.

The combined electrical network will consist of more than 100km of electrical cabling and over 100 local substations. The first decision, taken back in January 2008, was to award the electrical contract to power company EDF. Construction began in the summer and already several key milestones have been reached, most notably the completion of all underground cable work and the removal of overhead pylons, which was completed just before Christmas.

The electrical networks will be connected to a primary electrical substation located next to Kings Yard in the west of the Olympic Park. Clearance work on the site of the primary substation was completed early last year allowing construction work to start. The 132/11kv electrical substation will be a key piece of electrical infrastructure for the Olympic Park, the Stratford City development and the ongoing regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley area.

"These utility networks and infrastructure are not just for a summer of sport in 2012, but will power the long-term regeneration of the area for many years to come and show that we are planning the Games and legacy together from the very beginning," Simon Wright, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) director of infrastructure and utilities says. "The electrical networks will be a key part of the world-class infrastructure that will form the backbone of the Olympic Park."

Sustainability was at the core of London's bidding process so, naturally, it is at the heart of the design and construction plans for the primary electrical substation.

Crushed materials from the demolition of the former Kings Yard buildings in the Olympic Park will be reused in the construction of the substation.

The building has also been designed to include a 'brown roof', which involves crushed materials laid down on a flat roof to allow species to colonise naturally. The brown roof will help enhance the ecological value and biodiversity of the Olympic Park site by attracting local wildlife including black redstarts, a rare bird that thrives on brownfield land.

Energy centre

Work has also started on the energy centre, which will provide an efficient power, heating and cooling system across the Olympic Park site for the Games and for the new buildings and communities that will develop after 2012.

The contract to build, finance and operate the energy centre was awarded to Elyo, a subsidiary of Suez Energy Services, in July. The site of the centre has now been cleaned and cleared and Elyo are now on site, testing and surveying the site and installing a piling mat, which will allow around 200 piles to be sunk up to 24m into the ground to form the foundations of the building.

"These utility networks and infrastructure will power the long-term development of the Olympic Park for many years to come so, with construction work well underway, we are building for Games and legacy together from the very beginning," John Armitt, ODA chairman, explains.

"The energy centre and electrical substation will form the heart of the new utilities infrastructure and will be joined by the new utilities networks to form the backbone of the Olympic Park. The progress being made in constructing these essential works is a significant step forwards."

The electrical substation and energy centre will be located in Kings Yard in the west of the Olympic Park, and sustainability is at the heart of the design and construction plans.

The energy centre will include biomass boilers using sustainable biomass fuels (woodchip) and gas to generate heat, and a combined cooling heat and power (CCHP) plant to capture the heat generated by electricity production. The site-wide heat network will be used to generate domestic hot water and to heat the Aquatics Centre swimming pools and other venues and buildings.

A clear emphasis has also been put on the architectural designs of the electrical substation and the energy centre to ensure that both structures fit in with the design of the wider Olympic Park.

The electrical substation has been designed by Nord Architecture, a Glasgow-based practice that won the prestigious Young Architect of the Year Award in 2006. The substation design is for a dark brick building, which is intended to create a sense of solidity appropriate to the building's role as a key part of the utilities infrastructure in the Olympic Park. The use of dark brick in the designs also reflects the traditional use of dark brick stock as window and corner details on the former Kings Yard industrial buildings on the site where the new substation will be built.

The energy centre has been designed by John McAslan & Partners. Part of the utilities infrastructure will be housed within an existing Edwardian building at Kings Yard in the west of the Olympic Park, which will be retained and renovated. The energy centre design is sustainable and flexible to allow future technologies to be used within the centre as they are developed in years to come.

Power to the pylons

As for the pylons, the two-year power lines project has been delivered on time and to budget with the removal of the final overhead electricity pylon from the Olympic Park site taking place in mid-December.

With the removal of the final pylon from the Olympic Park, the ODA outlined the economic and legacy benefits the two-year powerlines project has delivered, including: more than 1,700 jobs and six major contracts awarded, worth more than £200m in total, for the tunnelling, cabling and pylon removal phases of the project; pylons up to 30m-high removed from the Olympic Park, transforming the skyline of east London for good and unlocking the Olympic Park site for the construction of new homes, sporting venues and essential infrastructure; and a new backbone of electrical infrastructure created beneath the Olympic Park to power the Games and the lasting regeneration of the area.

"Removing the final overhead pylon from the Olympic Park site is a hugely symbolic moment as we begin to transform the skyline of east London for good," David Higgins, ODA chief executive, says. "This £250m project, delivered on time and to budget, has created new jobs for local people and business opportunities for a range of companies and unlocks the Olympic Park landscape for the delivery of new homes, world-class sports venues and essential infrastructure.'

The powerlines project was started by the London Development Agency (LDA) in 2005, ahead of London's successful bid to host the 2012 Games. It was then handed over to be managed by the ODA, working with the LDA as well as EDF Energy and National Grid, the companies that own and operate the overhead lines.

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