Editor’s note: This story, first posted at 12:45 p.m. Friday, was updated throughout at 4:15 p.m.
Duke Energy is moving closer to building a new gas-insulated electrical substation at the corner of Patton and Clingman avenues in downtown Asheville, the chairman of the Asheville Downtown Commission told his fellow commission members Friday morning.
Michael McDonough, a member of working group made up of local residents, city officials, business representatives and utility representatives delivered the update to his commission colleagues Friday during the commission’s regular monthly meeting. In making his remarks, McDonough stressed that all the plans are not yet finalized, so there’s still a possibility that things can change.
A gas-insulated substation would be smaller than a traditional air-cooled substation, McDonough told the commission, and would be partially enclosed. “There are semi-enclosed transformer units and a small building with a roof on it” in that proposal, he said.
Under the proposal, the site of the substation would be moved away from the busy corner of Patton and Clingman, an intersection that’s a gateway to both downtown Asheville and the River Arts District, and more along Haywood Street, McDonough said. The topography of the lot at that location will allow Duke to sink the substation down below higher-graded surrounding land, he said.
With that location, a new access road to the substation could be built off Clingman Avenue, McDonough added. Also, power lines going out of the substation will be buried and will likely not run along Haywood Street but more likely along Clingman, he said, “so there will be a lot less overhead clutter.”
The location of substation on the lot will allow Duke Energy to potentially parcel off land and put it back on the market for sale, McDonough said.
Earlier this summer, Duke Energy bought the 4-acre corner lot, the former Hunter Volvo car dealership, for $7.4 million. Over the past few years, the utility has been actively looking for sites for new electrical substations in downtown Asheville, and its been buying property. Duke hasn’t built a new electrical substation to serve downtown since the 1970s, and the utility says its required to meet increased demand.
Duke dropped its plans for a site near Dickson Elementary School following public opposition. The company also purchased a lot at the corner of Asheville and Hilliard avenues but hasn’t done anything with it. Duke also bought another former car dealership site along Biltmore Avenue and has an agreement with the city for access to the Lee Walker Heights public housing complex.
“I feel like everyone is really happy with the process,” McDonough said, adding that Duke had listened to input from residents, city officials and the business community in designing the new substation.
All those talks have happened out of public view. Also, Asheville City Council this year has delayed adopting new regulations governing the electrical substations in downtown Asheville.