‘Redundancy’ Duke Substation Planned for Carthage

A Duke Energy substation in Carthage was one of two stations in Moore County that were attacked in Dec. 2022 leaving 45,000 people without power and exposing a major vulnerability in the nation’s power grid.


Staff Writer

Duke Energy Progress’ strategy to ensure its customers are not subjected to prolonged outages due to attacks on its electrical substations in the future is beginning to play out in Moore County.

Representatives for the Charlotte-based utility on Thursday went before Carthage’s planning board to rezone approximately 25 acres for a new substation that would serve as a back-up to its existing electrical grid. The substation, which would be located just off U.S. 15-501, would not be a primary service substation.

At Thursday night’s meeting of the Carthage Planning Board, the board approved the rezoning and agreed to a variance that would allow a 7-foot chain-link fence, topped with a foot of barbed wire, around the perimeter of the Duke Energy substation proposed for the southern part of town.

Real estate attorney Amy Crout represented Duke Energy and presented the planning board with the request. The location, as described by Crout, is a “redundancy station.”

“This added measure is designed to create resilience across our system to help avoid outages,” said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks. “Adding more energy pathways gives our grid operators more options to get customers power in the event of an outage.”

The redundancy station comes 15 months after an unknown attacker in the evening of Dec. 3, 2022 shot at the equipment of a Duke Energy substation on Vass-Carthage Road, causing the station to fail and cut power to customers in Carthage. A second similar attack a short time later on a much larger power substation off N.C. 211 in West End cut power to southern Moore County, throwing more than 40,000 Duke customers in the dark for up to four days.

The attacks remain under investigation and no arrests have been made.

The new redundancy station would be located at 4805 US 15-501. So far, there is only one proposed redundancy station in Moore County, an initiative that is continuing across the entire Duke Energy service area. The station itself is not visible from U.S. 15-501 and the property is expected to have buffer vegetation around the perimeter, as called for in the town’s ordinance.

Fencing with the added wire is one of the first lines of visible defense for Duke Energy, though the use of lighting and cameras can also be added, company officials have said. According to Crout, all of the substations are remotely monitored by a security staff.

“There are security measures you can see and those you can’t and that is intentional,” said Brooks. He said that the unseen security measures work to monitor and protect the grid in all power loss events, but especially those that might involve bad actors.

“In reality, the more common threats to substations and power systems are things like storms and squirrels,” said Brooks. He said that the Moore County attacks will serve as lessons to help protect against future incidents. 

Before the security fence was approved, Town Planner Jennifer Hunt prefaced the  request by saying, “As we grow we are going to have more utilities that we are going to need.” Hunt cited the example of internet companies looking to move into the area to provide faster internet speeds.

The planning board’s approval of the security fence will go to the Carthage Board of Commissioners for approval at a later meeting this month.

In other action Thursday, the Carthage Planning Board swore in new member Ian Lumgair following the dismissal of a past board member last month. Lumgair ran unsuccessfully for mayor in last November’s municipal election.

Contact Elena Marsh at (910) 693-2484 or elena@thepilot.com.