Repowering Downtown Austin
Ensuring Reliable Power for the 21st Century
For more than 70 years, the City of Austin's electric utility has designed, constructed, and operated an exceptional, high-capacity downtown network to promote a compact, aesthetically pleasing central business district. The network brings power created elsewhere into the area and transforms it by feeding power into high-voltage power lines that, in turn, feed closed vaults that serve downtown buildings through a system that is primarily underground.
Downtown Power is Nearly at Capacity
The rapid pace of development downtown is now close to exceeding the electrical facility requirements needed for the near- and long-term future.
Downtown Austin will be at an increased risk of recurring power outages if electric capacity is not increased and electrical equipment is not upgraded. Reliability will suffer and the system will not meet customer expectations unless several actions are taken within the next 10 years.
Austin Energy's proposed electric system improvements serve our customers in an area where the State of Texas has designated the utility as the provider of electrical power distribution. Simply put, it is Austin Energy’s responsibility to plan for and construct the improvements needed to keep up with current growth.
Austin Energy’s Repowering Downtown initiative involves a variety of upgrades to meet the needs of our city, such as:
- Upgrades to transmission lines.
- Adding a third substation serving downtown, in the Rainey Street District.
- And a complete rebuild of the existing Brackenridge Substation.
To assure that public desires for the project were understood and evaluated, Austin Energy has hosted an extensive public engagement process.
Community engagement occurred in three phases and resulted in the design of the surrounding wall, streetscape, and landscaping.
- Read the comprehensive Downtown Substation Community Engagement Report (pdf)
- View the design presentation from the September 24, 2019 public meeting (pdf)
- View the construction presentation from the October 7, 2021 public meeting (pdf)
- Watch the video of the October 7, 2021 virtual public meeting (video)
- Vea el video de la reunión pública virtual del 7 de octubre de 2021 en español (video)
An Additional Downtown Electrical Substation is Needed Now
The Downtown Austin Plan adopted by the Austin City Council in 2012 identified the need for a new substation in the fast-growing Rainey Street District to serve this part of downtown and redevelopment along Waller Creek.
In 1999, Austin Energy acquired the property at 706-½ Lambie St. in the Rainey Street District with the intent of building a new substation. Its location and proximity to the existing electrical and distribution network made it an ideal site to add capacity and use a previously unused property.
Why is a New Substation Needed Downtown?
- Downtown growth — Downtown Austin has experienced tremendous growth since the system was first built. The rapid pace of development downtown is now close to exceeding the electrical facility requirements for the near- and long-term future.
- Increased capacity — The additional development and fast-growing population of Downtown Austin requires increased energy capacity. Reliability will suffer and the system will not meet customer expectations unless several actions are taken within the next 10 years.
The new Rainey Street Substation will support downtown energy needs and allow the Brackenridge substation to be taken offline for construction. The more than 40-year-old Brackenridge substation will be rebuilt, and the transmission lines will be upgraded.
Download these fact sheets:
- Repowering Downtown Austin Fact Sheet (pdf)
- Hoja de datos para la repotenciación centro de Austin (pdf)
A Unique Design for the Rainey Neighborhood
The Rainey Street Substation is uniquely designed to complement and enhance the local character of the Rainey Neighborhood.
More than 600 Rainey Street neighbors helped select the name and design of the Rainey Street Substation over the course of three public meetings in 2018 and 2019. The community chose a modern design and expressed support to preserve four on-site heritage trees and enhance the streetscape with native landscaping, lighting, benches, trash cans, and electrical charging stations.
The completed project will not only add to the capacity of electrical resources in Austin — it will also improve walkability, beautify a previously unused parcel of land, and help tie the property into the neighboring natural features such as Lady Bird Lake and Waller Creek.
Construction of the Rainey Street Substation includes:
- Work to move existing water and wastewater lines from the property into the existing City of Austin street right of way. This portion of the project was completed in Spring 2020.
- A change in the property's zoning from Residential to Public. Neighbors within 500 feet will be notified about the opportunity to provide input on this change.
- Construction of the substation and surrounding landscaping from throughout 2021.
- Construction of both underground and overhead power lines to tie the new substation to the downtown grid. This work will continue through early 2023.
- The Downtown Repowering Project also includes the upgrade of current transmission lines that power downtown to increase their capacity so they can bring in more power and improve reliability for the entire downtown network grid.
Rainey Street Substation Anticipated Timeline
- Summer 2018 to Fall 2019 — Community input on planning process and design
- Spring 2020 — Relocated water and wastewater lines
- Summer 2020 — Property was rezoned from residential to public
- Fall 2021 — Public meeting to meet the contractor
Fall 2021 to Early 2023 — Substation construction
- Construction of the substation and surrounding landscaping
- Construction of both underground and overhead power lines to tie the new substation to the downtown grid
- Upgrade the current transmission lines that power downtown to increase their capacity so they can bring in more power and improve reliability for the entire downtown network grid
- Summer 2023 — Substation completion
- Email: Repowering Downtown Austin
- Phone: 512-505-7919