Sawyer County Record, Hayward WI
commentaries from WPSC and SOUL
November 1, 2000
Power line needed to meet Wisconsin's energy demands
By Larry Borgard, Vice President
Transmission, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
As an electric utility, Wisconsin Public Service has an obligation
to provide safe and reliable energy. We take that obligation very seriously.
That is why we are proposing the construction of a transmission line
from Duluth to Wausau.
We also understand there are many concerns associated with this proposed
power line project. However, it is important for everyone to realize
that our current transmission system is fragile and is no longer sufficient
to meet the growing electrical needs of this area. Wisconsin uses more
energy than it can generate. Therefore, a strong interstate transmission
system is critical for Wisconsin's future so we have the ability to
import much needed energy.
This proposed power line project, called Power Up, is the result of
the most comprehensive power line study conducted in this state in the
past 20 years. The study indicated that electric transmission improvements
were desperately needed in the state. Following this study, Minnesota
Power (Duluth) and Wisconsin Public Service (Wausau) stepped forward
to propose the joint project to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
(PSCW), the state's utility regulators.
Wisconsin has only four major transmission lines that connect it with
the neighboring states. In sharp contrast, Illinois has 25 lines and
Minnesota has 18. There is only one west-to-east high voltage transmission
line connection that runs from Minneapolis to Wisconsin. This single
line is the backbone of the electric system that keeps the lights on
in northern Wisconsin. Because of growing energy use, this line is becoming
Some new smaller generation units are being proposed, while at the
same time, the state's larger power plants are aging, and though still
reliable, face the prospect of increased downtime for maintenance. Once
these new generators are finally approved, constructed and operating,
they still will not solve the problem of an inadequate transmission
Our state has an electric reliability problem. We are proposing what
we feel is the most practical solution. We've looked at all the alternatives
(renewable energy such as wind, solar, local generation, fuel cells,
conservation, etc.) Some have potential. But as much as some people
would like to believe, these alternatives are not sufficient to meet
our immediate energy needs. The reliability problem needs to be fixed
We officially proposed the Power Up project to the PSCW in November.
They have established a process which allows them to make a final decision
by early 2001. The most critical part of their decision-making process
involves getting public input on the project. Public hearings are scheduled,
and widely publicized, later this year. We encourage everyone to become
part of the decision making process by expressing their opinions at
We can't wait any longer. The reliability problem will only worsen
as Wisconsin experiences continued economic growth. There is no one
perfect solution. The Power Up project is absolutely critical to help
us meet our obligation to provide safe and reliable power. As stated
before, we take this obligation very seriously.
For more information, visit our web site at www.powerupwisconsin.com.
SOUL challenges the need for power line
By Linda Ceylor
SOUL board member
Save Our Unique Land's (SOUL's) reactions to the Final Environmental
Impact Statement (FEIS) are varied and complex. We encourage everyone
to take time with this document, and take all comments to the public
hearings scheduled Nov. 28 and Dec. 8 at various locations in northern
It is extremely important to attend with testimony, as this will become
part of the legal record, the only part that the three appointed Public
Service Commissioners are legally bound to read as comments from the
public that will help them decide on the need for this project.
We have noted that the FEIS compares Arrowhead-Weston via Tripoli
to several other transmission system alternatives that could accomplish
the same function. Of these, they state that Arrowhead-Weston "ranks
highest in terms of susceptibility to environmental impact of nine of
the 11 environmental factors reviewed." SOUL has continually stated
that this line does not compliment our environment in the north, which
we feel is echoed with this statement and the pages of documentation
as to the potential environmental harm and problems with line siting
in the proposed areas of construction.
SOUL continues to challenge the need for the transmission line, and
has much information on distributed generation technologies, represented
within alternatives to Arrowhead-Weston mentioned in the FEIS. The costs
listed in the document appear quite close. While we are encouraged,
we still have many issues within both these costs and the construction
costs of the line itself. Examination of proposed generation within
the area of need and upgrades to the infrastructure as alternatives
are also noted.
The FEIS questions the fairness of siting a line in an area noted
for a lack of geographic density. Encouraging question, as this is probably
the first time any document has had to take a look at this issue. Land
values, health effects, stray voltage and aesthetics are only briefly
examined in this document. SOUL has much independent and peer, reviewed
information about any and all these issues; these are other areas that
look as though more information could have been gathered.
Since the release of both the draft EIS and FEIS, there have been
press announcements by utilities in the "area of need" that almost 9,000
megawatts of electricity will be proposed by Certificate of Public Need
to the PSC for potential construction. The area that these plants will
operate should have little impact on local citizens, as they are to
be constructed in industrial areas, and areas adjacent to existing power
plants. One such plant, adding 1,050 megawatts in the area of need,
Badger Gen plant in Kenosha, has been approved and will begin construction.
This, of course, removes any reliability arguments for Arrowhead-Weston,
as the energy would be located at the point of need, and the infrastructure
is already in place to transport the electricity to points of need.
Again, the FEIS takes these points into consideration with the end statements
pointing to a lack of need for the project.
You should additionally be aware of the needs of the 115kV transmission
line that will come out of the Tripoli area, as a part of the Arrowhead-Weston
project. This line is examined in the FEIS as a "repair and upgrade"
for the current problems in the existing transmission lines for the
Merrill, Antigo and Rhinelander area. Advance Plan B, 1998, had mentioned
eight possibilities for potential ideas to repair and upgrade these
lines. Only one of the solutions involves a 345kV source of energy.
In fact, the utilities were to have performed the necessary upgrades
in 1999. Rather, this situation appears again in the application of
the Arrowhead-Weston transmission line. The advance plans were replaced
by the strategic energy assessment, of which the draft SEA was published
in June of 2000. In this document, the need for an additional energy
source for the 20.5 mW necessary for the Crandon Mine is mentioned.
It should additionally be noted that WPS has stationed 18 SMES semi-trailers
in this area (WUMS) that have been in operation since summer of 2000.
This is a form of distributed generation that actually supplies any
needs for energy in the area. The lives of these units are a minimum
of 15 years. I can provide documentation on this subject.
In summary, there is much to both work with and challenge in the FEIS.
SOUL is looking at the text, and hopes to do both. With support from
over 10,000 letters decrying the project and resolutions against it
in 11 counties, our legal team and expert witnesses, along with 11,500
people impacted by these utilities, we are highly motivated. This document
by no means answers all questions connected with a project of this magnitude,
nor do we feel entirely positive or negative about the report. We hope
that citizens take time to really ask the hard questions about actual
needs for electricity throughout the state, and appropriate energy policies
to address those needs, now and in the future, especially since this
state is on a course toward deregulation.
SOUL's website is www.wakeupwisconsin.com.