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Report: Alabama Power Plans New Substation at Ensley Works

Once a thriving still mill, the former U.S. Steel Ensley Works plant has been silent for years, as seen in this 2011 photo at the Ensley 20th Street viaduct. (The Birmingham News/ Jeff Roberts)

By Greg Garrison | ggarrison@al.com

Alabama Power plans to build a new transmission substation on 11 acres of U.S. Steel property at the former Ensley Works, representatives of the power company told the Birmingham City Council on Tuesday.

Although the Ensley Works steel mill with its towering smokestacks near the 20th Street viaduct in Ensley has been idle and abandoned for decades, U.S. Steel still owns hundreds of acres of property there. U.S. Steel was recently acquired by the Japanese steelmaker, Nippon.

The power substation involves just a small portion of the former steel mill property and the rest of the land has been viewed for decades as a potential industrial site, but no solid plans have emerged.

“It’s a redevelopment opportunity, one of the larger sites that we have for industrial use in the city of Birmingham,” said City Council President Darrell O’Quinn.

“With the recent sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon, we’re very curious as to what the future of that property could be,” he said. “They were one of the largest property owners in the state of Alabama. It’ll be especially interesting to us to see how Nippon transitions that. I’m sure it will take some time to accomplish that.”

The Ensley Works steel mill operated from 1888 to 1976, owned by the Tennessee, Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, which became a division of U.S. Steel in 1907.

The planned Alabama Power substation at the Ensley Works will be built at 1475 Pleasant Hill Road, with gated access from the road that leads to the Jefferson County Environmental Services’ Village Creek Water Reclamation Facility, which is at 1440 Pleasant Hill Road.

“The newly redeveloped distribution substation and newly constructed transmission substation will provide enhanced reliability to customers in the area,” said Kimberly Jackson, community relations manager for Alabama Power’s Birmingham division.

The current substation on 11th Street in Pratt City, built in 1941, is in need of upgrades, Jackson said.

That necessitates construction of a new transmission station that will be located at Ensley Works, she said. The Pratt City station will remain in use as a distribution substation, Jackson said.

The new transmission station will allow for future load growth in addition to improved reliability, said David Gray, an attorney for Alabama Power’s corporate real estate team.

Distribution stations provide “service to your house,” Gray said.

“Transmission lines run into substations,” he said. “They’re big lines.”

Using the Ensley Works property means less impact on the nearby Sherman Heights, Pratt City and Ensley neighborhoods, they said.

“Most of the lines already run through that area anyway, so there’s minimal impact to the neighborhood,” Gray said.

The council approved rezoning of the property from mixed use to qualified heavy industrial district.

This story originally appeared on www.al.com