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Oncor’s new downtown Waco electric substation planned to improve reliability

By: J.B. SMITH |

A new substation Oncor is preparing to build on South 17th Street will help supply energy to a growing downtown and improve reliability, company officials said.

The electric distribution company plans to build the facility next year at Mary Avenue next to the 17th Street railroad overpass, served by a new 0.75-mile transmission line along the railroad tracks from the existing 25th Street transmission lines.

Currently, most of downtown’s power needs are met through lines coming from the East Waco substation across the Brazos River at Interstate 35.

Oncor regional manager Michael Baldwin said the line coming from the opposite direction will provide “redundancy” in the system, so if one circuit has a problem, the company can quickly shift the load to another circuit to restore power.

“This project is a strategic location to serve the anticipated future growth in the downtown area and will provide the opportunity shift capacity to optimize reliability in the entire Waco area,” he said.

Baldwin and other Oncor officials presented the plan to the Waco City Council late last month and got positive feedback. Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. said he hoped the new substation could ultimately make the East Waco substation unnecessary so that the site could be redeveloped, but Oncor officials said that would be a complicated task.

City Manager Dale Fisseler said in an interview that he’s glad Oncor is making the improvements necessary for downtown’s future before there’s a capacity problem.

“My understanding is that it not only will help improve reliability but help meet the anticipated demand for downtown,” he said.

“We partner with Oncor. Everything we have runs on electricity. We have a water plant downtown, and having additional redundancy is a good thing.”

Brian Ginsburg, owner of W Promotions on Austin Avenue and chairman of the downtown Public Improvement District, said he hasn’t experienced many outages over the years, but he’s glad to see utility improvements for the area.

“As we grow, naturally, I’ve heard talk about needing more power down here,” he said. “Infrastructure is a big deal.”

Ginsburg said the Mary Avenue site is appropriate for the substation. It will be surrounded by a decorative wall and will be barely visible from the 17th Street bridge.

Oncor is a subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings, which also owns TXU. Oncor, which owns and manages all of Waco’s electrical grid, is not affected by its parent company’s bankruptcy.