Asheville City Council cleared the way for a new Duke Energy substation with a vote to rezone portions of 252 Patton Ave. and 28 Knoxville Place, during Council’s Jan. 22 meeting.
Duke has proposed the construction of a gas-insulated, high-voltage switchgear (or GIS) substation on the parcel that formerly served as a car dealership on the edge of downtown. A GIS substation is defined as “a compact metal encapsulated switchgear consisting of high-voltage components.” Duke says this type of substation can be safely operated in confined spaces; in this case, it will mostly be housed in a 5,200-square-foot two-story brick and metal building.
This differs from what a traditional electric substation looks like, with components standing behind fencing but remaining in the open air. The substation behind the U.S. Cellular Center is of the traditional type.
Council approved a request to conditionally rezone portions of the property that fronts along Patton and Clingman avenues as well as Knoxville Place, for the substation, following a public input and community engagement process that resulted in a community-supported design.
“The GIS substation will result in a much smaller impact, leaving room for future development that could help screen the substation from view,” said Planning Director Todd Okolichany.
The development is aligned with the Living Asheville: A Comprehensive Plan, under the designated Future Land Use category for this area (utility service to support growth).
A new substation serving downtown has not been built since the 1970s. As a city, Asheville has grown by more than 20% since then, with 2016 Census figures showing population at 90,000.
“The Duke substation will directly support, and is necessary for, current and future development in and around the downtown area,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer.
Plans call for Duke Energy to begin construction of the GIS substation this year. Jason Walls, Duke Government & Community Relations Manager, said the substation should be complete by the end of 2020, tentatively.