UTILITIES – More power to you – Proposed transmission project would add lines, substation to New North

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 :: Industries , Insight On
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

American Transmission Company, which has an office in De Pere, is working on a proposal to reinforce electrical transmission grids in northeast Wisconsin. These reinforcements are meant to not only improve electrical transmission, but to address changes in the electrical market in the region and improve reliability.

ATC’s proposed Bay Lake project includes four new power lines: a 345-kilovolt line from Green Bay to Ishpeming, Mich., a 138-kV line from Green Bay to Oconto Falls, and two 138-kV lines from Menominee County to Escanaba, Mich. To build these lines, a new substation is proposed in Green Bay, and significant renovations would be made at existing substations.

Jackie Olson, corporate communication consultant for ATC, recounts a time in 2011 when improper electrical reliability hindered ATC’s operations. “In 2011, the entire Upper Peninsula was connected to northeastern Wisconsin by three transmission lines: one high voltage and two lower voltage. In May of 2011, the higher voltage line was out of service for maintenance, and when a storm hit, the two lower voltage lines were taken out by lightning. This separated the entire Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin, causing a widespread outage for about 10 hours.”

Similar outages in different areas could have caused lasting damage. “If that lightning hit a little further down, it could have meant outages in Green Bay, Wausau and even Rhinelander,” says Olson.

The proposed project would cost an estimated $470 million to $750 million for the 345-kV facilities, and $125 million to $190 million for 138-kV facilities. For projects in local communities, ATC plans to hire local construction workers through their existing contractors. These local workers would be needed to provide on-site services such as asphalt and concrete construction.

Counties in the New North would be affected by the construction of these transmission lines, as it would require construction of an electrical substation in Green Bay and transmission lines that would go through Marquette, Menominee, Brown, Florence, Marinette, Oconto, Outagamie and Shawano counties.

The project would create significant impacts on the areas of construction not only in job creation, but in overall economic growth. According to ATC, $1 billion in transmission supports about 13,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in economic activity.

ATC plans to hold open houses in Green Bay and Ishpeming, Mich., for the public and prospective stakeholders in the fall. These open houses will discuss potential locations for transmission routes, and to gather data and public comments to help ATC choose the best locations.

Property to be acquired has yet to be decided, but temporary plans have been drawn up by ATC for potential routes (see map). At this point in the process, three to six routes have been proposed, and ATC is currently reviewing these routes to narrow the possibilities to two, which will be presented to the public for approval.  – By Rashmika Nedungadi