By John Schaffner

Georgia Power has begun the public relations rounds early to sell its plans for a major power substation it plans to build in the next three to four years between Piedmont Road and Maple Drive in Buckhead, just south of the major crossroads of Piedmont and Peachtree roads.

A contingent of the power utility’s team conducted a public information briefing for the Buckhead Business Association on June 16 at the organization’s weekly breakfast meeting at Anthony’s Restaurant, almost directly across Piedmont Road from the planned site for the substation.

Georgia Power’s project manager, Larry Jack, explained that the proposed substation, to be located on 1.25 acres at 3126 Piedmont Road, is needed to provide the power requirements for the present and estimated future growth in the Buckhead area.

It was explained that the primary reason Georgia Power was meeting so early in the planning process was to get the information to the public in order to get comments back. It was emphasized that what was being shown and discussed is not the final plan.

He said the substation would be very different from what is now in Buckhead. “We want to disguise it.”

Jack said a lot of the substation technology will be “inside a house.” He explained that the advances in technology for substations mean much less space is required to house one. He added that is a good thing because land prices in Buckhead keep going up.

Jack showed preliminary concept drawings to the group of Buckhead business leaders that gave a glimpse of how the substation will look from above and from street level. He said that even the outside equipment (transformer) “will be hidden from above views by a trellis.” He said the substation will have one large transformer with space to add a second as demand requires.

“We are making all efforts to make it almost invisible,” he told the group.

He described the facility as being “tucked in between Piedmont Road and Maple Drive” on a relatively narrow piece of land that was part of a now-closed car dealership. He said access will be primarily from Maple Drive and that the power lines from the facility would run under the driveway.

A utility easement would carry the main line off Piedmont Road to the substation, Jack said.

He said the incoming lines off Piedmont would be underground, but some overhead high-tension lines would run on poles along Piedmont to the site of the substation, where the lines would go underground.

He explained that the Buckhead substation, just down Piedmont Road from the site for the planned substation, was built in 1965. That was followed by substations at Powers Ferry Road and at Lindbergh. There is no more space available to remodel those three facilities, Jack said.

In response to questions from those attending the Thursday morning meeting, Georgia Power representatives explained that the substation would have zero emissions into the atmosphere.

It was explained that, in terms of noise pollution, the transformer does have a little bit of a hum, about 75 to 80 decibels right up against the transformer. But at the edge fence around the transformer that hum drops to 55 to 60 decibels.

Asked whether Georgia Power is actively looking at alternative power sources such as solar power, a company environmental specialist said that for solar to be reasonably effective, an area requires 200 cloudless days a year, which Atlanta does not get.