For many people in the West they are one of the least-loved features of the countryside.
But now electricity pylons, which have barely changed since the 1920s, could get a makeover through a competition to rethink their design.
It comes as ministers and industry say new pylons and infrastructure will be needed as the UK hooks up the equivalent of 20 new power stations over the next decade, including renewable sources, to meet electricity demand.
Communities across Somerset are fighting National Grid’s plans to route giant pylons through the landscape to take cables from the proposed Hinkley C nuclear plant to an electricity substation at Seabanks, Avonmouth.
The competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and National Grid is calling on architects, designers and engineers to come up with new designs. Winners will share in a prize pot of £10,000.
National Grid said it would give “serious consideration” to developing the winning design.
But Dr Maggie Gregory, of Mark, near Wedmore, co-chair of Pylon-Moor-Pressure, said: “I regard this as another charm offensive following on from the Government’s pressure on National Grid to fund an under-grounding study. The Government clearly realises just how unpopular pylons are and are trying to get off the hook. No design of pylons will be suitable in the unique landscape of the Somerset Levels. The only options are undersea or underground.”
There are currently 88,000 electricity pylons in the UK.
The design of the 50m high steel lattice towers, which has barely changed since the 1920s, makes them resistant to high wind and lightning strikes and able to cope with the load of cables.
National Grid executive director UK, Nick Winser, said: “While underground connection will be a viable solution in some sensitive locations, new and replacement pylons will be needed and National Grid is equally keen to support the development of the most visually acceptable overhead solutions.”
The competition closes on July 12.
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