Articles filed under Transmission from Wisconsin
A federal judge has blocked a power line under construction in Iowa and Wisconsin from crossing the Mississippi River after finding the government’s environmental review was inadequate. Judge William Conley’s ruling throws the fate of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line into question just months after utilities began construction on the $492 million project. ...The utilities announced they had begun work on the Wisconsin portion of the $492 million project despite an injunction temporarily prohibiting work on or near federally-protected waters.
Conservationists hoped the site would someday be added to Nelson Dewey’s former estate, now a state park. Or perhaps absorbed into the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, a meandering stretch of protected river bluffs and flood plains where migratory birds breed and bald eagles spend the winter. Instead, Wisconsin ratepayers — and others as far away as Michigan and downstate Illinois — could be forced to pay clout-heavy energy companies more than $1 billion for a new high-voltage power line that would start near the Dewey substation.
The environmental groups claim PSC Chair Rebecca Cameron Valcq and Commissioner Mike Huebsch should have recused themselves from the case because of their ties to utility groups supporting the project. Valcq previously served as regulatory counsel for We Energies, whose parent company WEC Energy Group also owns about 60 percent of American Transmission Co., one of the developers of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek line.
George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said the construction and maintenance of the towers would have “significant and undue adverse impacts on environmental values, including land and water resources.” Meyer said the WWF would continue to challenge the line at other state and federal agencies and if necessary in the courts.
"There is not sufficient evidence of record for this Commission to definitively conclude that the Cardinal-Hickory Creek (CHC) transmission line project is the highest priority energy option that is also cost effective and technically feasible as required by Wisconsin law," Wellinghoff, now the CEO of Grid Policy, Inc., a distributed energy consulting group, wrote in his testimony to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
The Cardinal-Hickory Creek line would allow the transmission of an additional 1,300 MW between Iowa and Wisconsin and would provide “an outlet for approximately 25 gigawatts of wind resources in Iowa and areas west of Wisconsin and enable more than a dozen new wind facilities to fully interconnect to the electric system in areas west of Wisconsin,” ATC spokesperson Kaya Freiman said. Now the Wisconsin Public Service Commission is tasked with, among other things, deciding whether Wisconsin ratepayers can be billed for the cost of constructing the Cardinal-Hickory Creek line.
The proposed 345-kilovolt line would run between Dubuque, Iowa, and a substation in Middleton along one of two routes that the utilities say would deliver low-cost wind energy from Iowa to population centers where the power is needed.
A judge on Monday will hear oral arguments that center on whether the board responsible for protecting utility consumers erred when it authorized a consortium of utility companies to build the nearly $600 million line, which the projects owners say will allow utilities to purchase cheaper and cleaner power from wind farms in Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Classified as an endangered species in Wisconsin, the phlox moth has been cataloged in five counties, including Jackson and Monroe. It relies on the downy phlox plant, which according to the DNR does not rapidly colonize new openings. The frosted elfin butterfly lives in similar habitats and is listed as threatened in the state.
An investigation by the state Department of Natural Resources found there were protected bird species along a one-mile stretch near the grasslands, and construction is still blocked from continuing in that area, according to Jeffrey Ripp, Public Service Committee gas and energy administrator.
State authorities have halted work on part of a high-voltage power line under construction between Alma and Holmen after contractors violated a no-work agreement designed to protect threatened bird species.
Abbie Church, conservation director for the conservancy, said she was driving in the area of the grasslands last month when she saw construction crews working and power poles already up. The conservancy had worked to negotiate a restriction on construction activities during the nesting season when it agreed to an easement for the power line project. Nesting generally takes place from April through July.
A power giant is hoping to bring more high-voltage transmission lines to Madison, promising to deliver clean and green energy from the west. But critics are questioning the logic of building a 150-mile power line for electricity that could be generated closer to home.
"The majority of condemnations involve small amounts of land taken from ordinary people. Taken together, that adds up to a lot of value that should be protected, and property rights are fundamental to our republic," said Robert Roth, a Menomonee Falls lawyer who specializes in eminent domain cases.
Wisconsin Power & Light got a slap on the wrist from state regulators for not making it clear that there will be problems getting electricity out to consumers from a major wind farm the Madison utility company is building in Minnesota. Last April, WPL requested a $35.4 million rate boost for 2011, primarily to help pay for the Bent Tree wind farm near Albert Lea, Minn.
A group of utilities in 11 states, including Pewaukee-based American Transmission Co., is studying three alternatives, each of which would cost at least $23 billion over the next 20 years. What's unclear: How much it will end up costing for Wisconsin's share of the projects. A more detailed analysis has been launched to help determine what the payoff could be in savings from increasing the flow of low-cost power around the region, said Flora Flygt, ATC's director of strategic projects.
The multimillion-dollar construction projects to get the blades spinning won't mean much if there's no way to transmit wind farm electricity. So far in Wisconsin, transmission has been less of a problem than local approvals and harnessing the wind, but that could change as the state reaches farther west for renewable energy.
The people who live in Pleasant Springs have no choice but to trust that an estimated $220 million transmission line will not get too close to a subdivision. ...Public Service Commission of Wisconsin earlier this month chose not to reconsider Waukesha-based American Transmission Co. LLC's proposal for a 345-kilovolt line between Rockdale and west Middleton near Madison.
Wisconsin’s endangered species law (s. 29.604, Wis. Stats.) requires the Department of Natural Resources to notify the public when it proposes to authorize the incidental taking of a state endangered or threatened species.