In Iceland they use a series of steel statues of running humans, in Canada they use a slender white tubular frame called a lily, while in Wales we use armies of squat steel pylons.
The design of the much- maligned British electricity pylon, which has hardly changed since it was created by Sir Reginald Blomfeld in 1927, is set for a makeover.
The Royal Institute of British Architects has launched a competition inviting architects and designers to come up with alternative, more graceful ways of transporting electricity across the country.
The competition comes as the National Grid plans to build thousands of new pylons across the UK to cope with power from renewable sources and new power stations.
In Mid Wales, protesters are fighting a campaign against plans for hundreds of new pylons linking planned windfarms to the National Grid.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne backed the competition yesterday and said he hoped it would make it easier for the public to accept the infrastructure needed.
He said: “The equivalent of 20 new power stations is needed by 2020, much more beyond that, and they’ll need connecting to the grid.
“It’s crucial that we seek the most acceptable ways of accommodating infrastructure in our natural and urban landscapes.
“I hope the pylon design competition will ignite creative excitement, but also help the wider public understand the scale of the energy challenge ahead of us.”
The National Grid has said it would give “serious consideration” to developing the winning design for use in future projects.
But Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire Glyn Davies expressed doubts as to whether any fresh designs would assuage opposition to the Mid Wales scheme.
He said hundreds of the towers would be left straddling a 30-mile stretch of countryside between Newtown and Shropshire.
They would also be needed for about a further 40 miles between a planned sub-station in Abermule or Cefn Coch and the 10 new wind farms.
Mr Davies said: “What’s worrying people about this scheme is the sheer scale.
“It involves the turbines, the pylon, the cable and the substation.
“It’s probably one of the biggest engineering schemes there’s ever been in Britain.
“I don’t think any redesigned pylon would make any difference to the opposition to that scheme.”
There are currently 88,000 electricity pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on the National Grid’s main transmission network in England and Wales.
The 50-metre high steel lattice towers in the transmission network carry electricity for thousands of miles around the country.
Their design by leading architect Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1927 makes them resistant to high winds and lightning strikes and able to cope with the load and tension of the cables.
In Iceland, a similar competition was run and was won by architecture and design firm Choi & Shine.
The firm came up with designs for gigantic, white-painted steel structures designed to look like humans running through the landscape. In Canada, the Quebec transenergie line uses a structure made out of slender white tubes named a “muguet”, after a white lily.
In Wales, campaigners are hoping to persuade the National Grid to install an underground cable.
But the National Grid’s executive director UK, Nick Winser, has said while the underground option will be viable in some places, pylons will still be needed.
He said: “Much of the new low-carbon generation is planned for remote or coastal areas, which means new infrastructure will be needed to get the electricity we need to our homes, businesses and vehicles.
“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, and shortlisted entrants will be given the chance to work with National Grid before final designs are submitted in September and judges make a decision in October.
The competition winners will share a prize fund of £10,000.
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