BC Hydro proposes innovative new substations

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

With demand for electricity in downtown Vancouver expected to grow by more than 75 per cent in the next 30 years, BC Hydro is proposing to build two new substations underground. The proposed concept called “seed” will upgrade downtown Vancouver’s electricity infrastructure while funding new community amenities like new schools, daycare spaces and park upgrades.

BC Hydro currently has three substations in the downtown core. The first is Cathedral Square substation which will be upgraded and continue to be an important part of the system. The others, Murrin substation in Chinatown (built in 1947) and Dal Grauer substation on Burrard Street (built in 1953) are nearing end-of-life and need to be replaced.

The traditional approach to building substations is to find and buy a piece of land and build a substation on top of it. In downtown Vancouver, this would mean taking up almost half a city block for each new site, displacing other needs such as housing in a growing city where land is scarce and valuable.

With “seed”, BC Hydro is the first utility in North America to consider a new, city-wide approach, proposing to build two new substations underground in the West End and Yaletown, so the space above them can be used for new schools, new daycare spaces and improved parks.

“Having to build for the future in a city where land is scarce and expensive, challenged BC Hydro to find a new approach. By literally planting our substations underground, the available budgets and the land above can be used to grow community benefits, whether that is a school, a park or a playing field. We think the ‘seed’ concept is an innovation that makes this livable city even more leading on a global scale,” said Jessica McDonald, president & CEO, BC Hydro.

BC Hydro was the first utility to build an underground substation in North America. This substation was built below Cathedral Square Park in downtown Vancouver and has been safely operating since 1984. Other communities like Anaheim (2007) and Toronto (2017) are following BC Hydro’s lead.

The concept has been shared with the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver School Board and Vancouver Park Board for their consideration. BC Hydro will also seek feedback from the public from January 20 to February 28 through an online feedback form, open houses and roundtable discussions. A decision to proceed or not will be made by the end of March 2017.

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