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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Questions follow power line announcement

From an article by in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A Michigan utility company wants to build what it’s calling the Green Power Express, a super-sized transmission line that would link wind-power farms around the Midwest and carry their electricity to urban areas where the power is needed. . . .

The proposal would involve building massive 765-kilovolt transmission lines — nearly twice the capacity of the biggest lines now running through the state, at 345 kilovolts — and would run through parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

A conceptual map has the line entering Wisconsin at the state’s border with Minnesota and Iowa, about halfway between La Crosse and Prairie du Chien, and heading east toward what appears to be the Madison area. An ITC official did not provide site details. . . .

Wisconsin regulatory officials, utility companies and environmentalists agree that more line capacity is needed to transport electricity generated by the growing number of wind farms. But they’re not sure ITC’s plan for giant-sized lines is the answer.

Michael Vickerman, executive director of the Madison environmental group, Renew Wisconsin, said he has "reservations" about the need for 765-kilovolt lines. Smaller transmission upgrades can accommodate new wind generation, he said.

Wisconsin Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Callisto also has questions.

"I don’t want to close any doors to what they have proposed but I have lots of grave concerns about the cost," he said. ITC is proposing "very large lines" that would require "very large right-of-ways," Callisto said. A right-of-way is the legal permission to use a property owner’s land or the area above it.

Callisto is part of a five-state panel — involving Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota North Dakota and South Dakota — discussing how to move electricity east from windier western states, and how to pay for that. The group has been looking into 345-kilovolt lines, Callisto said, and hopes to make recommendations this fall.

"We have to make sure that what we’re paying for benefits Wisconsin ratepayers," he said.

In light of that effort, ITC may be a bit premature, a spokesman for Alliant said.

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