BC Hydro is introducing “seed”, a proposed concept to upgrade downtown Vancouver’s electricity infrastructure while funding new community amenities like new schools, daycare spaces and park upgrades.
Demand for electricity in downtown Vancouver is expected to grow by over 75 per cent in the next 30 years due to population and densification. 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,” said Jessica McDonald, president and CEO of BC Hydro. “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.”
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 our lead.
Along with new and upgraded electrical infrastructure, “seed” could fund the development of a number of community benefits, including:
- a complete transformation of Cathedral Square Park to make it a desirable place to visit (2020);
- possible added amenities to Emery Barnes Park in Yaletown, if requested by the community (2020);
- a new school in Coal Harbour (2020);
- a new school, daycare spaces and green space in the West End (2025);
- a new underground substation in the West End (2025);
- a refurbishment of Emery Barnes Park (2039);
- a new underground substation under Emery Barnes Park (2041);
- upgrades to the existing underground Cathedral Square substation (2050); and
- significant funds that the Vancouver Park Board could use to provide other potential benefits, such as a new park or recreational facilities.
At this stage, 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.
This feedback will be considered by BC Hydro, Vancouver School Board and Vancouver Park Board, along with technical and financial information, and a decision on whether or not to proceed with the idea is expected to be made by the end of March 2017.