Proposal:Substation nodes extension

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Substation nodes extension
Proposal status: Approved (active)
Proposed by: fanfouer
Tagging: substation=*
Applies to: node
Definition: Improve power substations and transformers mixing on the same node for small substations

Draft started: 2019-02-20
RFC start: 2021-06-25
Vote start: 2022-05-26
Vote end: 2022-06-09

Combining different objects on the same OSM node is not often easy.
This proposal will try to improve mixing power substations and devices inside (mostly transformers or compensators) on the same node according to what mappers read on ground.


No new key or value are proposed and no existing key or value are proposed for deprecation.
It's only about compatibility rules and optional advanced power mapping practices that must be properly validated.

With following in mind

It is proposed to:

Other reviewed substation=* values than substation=minor_distribution or substation=distribution remain incompatible as they refer to bigger substations and shouldn't be mapped on a node.



OSM usually encourage to map power substations, transformers and compensators on separate features as the first is a place and the two lasts are devices.
However, this prevents to properly describe what is sometimes seen on ground, when a minor_distribution substation consists in a transformer or a compensator on a pole or in a cabinet on a single node.

Some countries/operators actually sign poles with transformer as substations. Mappers use to map them as nodes and add transformer=main on the pole. They now want to add substation=minor_distribution as to reflect what they read on ground (transformer on the pole and substation signage). Using the same key with values power=substation, power=pole and power=transformer or power=compensator is impossible.
Mixing substation and transformer or compensator on the same node is correct here, optional and should be properly validated by editors and QA tools.
It's useful to have the two information (substation and transformer or compensator) on such a node for data consumers depending on their needs. Some renders would only show actual substations while others would like to show simpler poles with transformers and only substation=* presence on such features allows this distinction according to signage.

A transformer on a pole doesn't always mean it's a substation. Some countries don't use to call them substations while other do (in France, all poles with a transformer are actual substations).
It has to be signed on ground or confirmed by official and license compliant data provided by operators.

Street cabinets

Substation cabinet components on node.png

Some substations can be small enough to be self contained in a cabinet.
The set including street cabinet + transformer + low voltage equipment can be marked as a substation on the ground with the help of a label seen on the cabinet's door.
Some other cabinet substations are for network internal equipment only and can involve transformers or compensators.

As street cabinets are often mapped with a node on OSM and described with power=substation + substation=minor_distribution, we can optionally add transformer=main on the same feature as well to let everyone know there is a transformer inside (and optionally complete with frequency=*, voltage:primary=*, voltage:secondary=*...).
See examples with substations labels seen in place.


Substation pole components on node.png

Small power substations sometimes need nothing but a pole to exist. Some countries or operators describe them as a substation because of additional equipment presence on low voltage side.
A sign referring to substation is read on the ground, usually directly on the pole.
As such a pole is always described as a node on OSM, we should add substation=minor_distribution on the same feature also to let everyone knows there is a substation there.

Considering a pole with transformer or a pole with a compensator is not mandatory and depends on what is read on ground.
Mixing substation=* and transformer=main or compensator=* here is optional and correct.

More complex substations

We are dealing here with simple enough substations to be mapped on a node as to not clutter the map with a lot of power features. They mostly contain a single main transformer (and no auxiliary one), optional compensator, a few protective equipment and cables inbound.
If it comes to map a pole or a cabinet with more devices or stuff inside, it will be barely possible to make it fit on a node and several features can be used.

Any more complex situation should be mapped with an area and nodes inside for each feature. It's not desirable to make everything always fit on a node.

Edition management

In addition of existing incompatibilities, such edits will be made:

External discussions


Photo Object Tagging Recommendation Comments
Substation in a street cabinet


node man_made=street_cabinet Mandatory It's a street cabinet


Recommended The cabinet is signed as a substation. POSTE (visible on the example photo) translates to SUBSTATION.

Remove voltage=*

Optional There is a transformer inside we could describe on the same node.
As transformer=* is incompatible with voltage=*, voltage=* is removed in favour of voltage:primary=*.
Substation on a power pole


node power=pole


Mandatory It's a power pole



if it's a substation

The pole is signed as a substation. POSTE (visible on the example photo) translates to SUBSTATION.


or if no substation
A transformer is visible at the top of the pole and could be described on the same node

Out of scope situations

Situations depicted here aren't covered by any change for reasons given in comments

Photo Object Tagging Recommendation Comments
20140501 165031.jpg


area building=service


Mandatory It's a power substation inside a service building


Recommended It's a minor distribution power substation
- It's a substation mapped as an area and transformers are inside as nodes, no transformer=main on the substation building area here.
Armoire haute tension, Clairvaux-les-Lacs.jpg


node man_made=street_cabinet


Mandatory It's a power substation inside a street cabinet


Recommended It's a distribution power substation
- Despite it's a cabinet power substation, there is no transformer inside (we know that thanks to the ARMOIRE sign seen in place). Only switches inside so no transformer=main here.
Legacy National Grid Substation - - 39134.jpg



landuse=industrial power=substation

Mandatory It's a power substation inside a closed industrial perimeter (map also barrier=fence if fenced)


Recommended It's a transmission power substation
- As transformers are clearly visible and can be added as nodes inside the substation perimeter, no transformer=main on the substation area.
Power transformer distribution2.jpg


node location=outdoor Recommended The transformer is outdoor
- It's a node transformer inside a wide substation perimeter mapped as an area, then no power=substation or substation=* combined with the transformer.


Mandatory Tagging a normal transformer.
2015-04-12 14 05 33 Utility pole and street light on Peck Avenue in Ewing, New Jersey.jpg


node power=pole


Mandatory It's a wooden power pole
- There is no signage stating the pole is an actual substation, so no substation=* here.


Recommended There is a stand-alone transformer at the top of the pole with no additional equipment


Voting closed

Voting on this proposal has been closed.

It was approved with 11 votes for, 1 vote against and 0 abstentions.

  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --JacquesLavignotte (talk) 20:15, 26 May 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. -- Fanfouer (talk) 23:33, 26 May 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --AnakinNN (talk) 09:23, 27 May 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Wetterauer (talk) 04:57, 29 May 2022 (UTC) It is indeed a very special topic, which probably only specialists can deal with. But as a 1/2 specialist, I think it could be important. Therefore YES from me.
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Bert Araali (talk) 09:05, 29 May 2022 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. - I oppose "power=substation are facilities and substation=minor_distribution and substation=distribution are the only ones that could be mapped on a node." claim. All objects mappable as areas can be mapped as nodes if no better quality can be achieved (mapping lakes or cemeteries as nodes is fine, even if areas are strongly preferable if feasible. Yes for some like buildings benefits are extremely tiny) Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 20:00, 29 May 2022 (UTC)
It is even worse! It claims that power=substation without additional tags cannot be mapped as nodes! And pretends that it is an existing consensus! (and it is a good example why approved proposals are not mandatory to be followed...) Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 08:58, 30 May 2022 (UTC)
It's obvious that power=substation can be mapped on nodes, wiki is clear about that. Why are you stating things this way? Fanfouer (talk) 09:11, 30 May 2022 (UTC)
Because your proposal is pretending that situation is different and I worry that it will be used to change wiki that currently is OK in this. Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 09:16, 30 May 2022 (UTC)
No edit is forseen on power=substation in Edition management, nor is proposed, I'm sorry. substation=* is recommended and will remain as this Fanfouer (talk) 09:32, 30 May 2022 (UTC)
Can you edit "power=substation are facilities and substation=minor_distribution and substation=distribution are the only ones that could be mapped on a node." then? Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 19:35, 3 June 2022 (UTC)
Done Fanfouer (talk) 00:06, 5 June 2022 (UTC)
I see that it also claims that utility=power is mandatory on building=service housing substations (it is not, I mapped many building=service without adding this and it is fine, especially if I added power=substation then adding utility=power adds no real benefit) Describing it as mandatory is again pretending that consensus already exists. Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 09:15, 30 May 2022 (UTC)
I've removed utility=power from examples, it will be adressed in another proposal Fanfouer (talk) 09:32, 30 May 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Zorglubu (talk) 09:27, 30 May 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --快乐的老鼠宝宝 (talk) 18:19, 3 June 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Renecha (talk) 18:02, 4 June 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Ydel (talk) 10:19, 5 June 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --EneaSuper (talk) 12:02, 5 June 2022 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Deuzeffe (talk) 12:24, 5 June 2022 (UTC)