Final EIS issued for Alma-LaCrosse CapX2020 project

The final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Alma-LaCrosse line in the CapX2020 project was filed Feb. 1 with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW). 

The document – which includes 285 pages plus tables, figures, and appendices – questioned the need for the proposed 345-kV line.

“One of the stated reasons for this new line is to address the community load serving needs in the La Crosse/Winona area,” the document said, adding, “It is not clear that there will be sufficient population growth in the La Crosse/Winona area to justify the projected increase in demand for electricity presented in the CPCN application.”

The lower-than-expected growth in the area’s population will mean a lower-than-expected increase in peak demand.

According to the document, peak load grew at an annual rate of 0.75% between 2002 and 2010. “However, the applicants’ revised projections of peak load translate into an annual growth rate of 1.4% over the [2010-2030 time] period,” the EIS continued. “This projected peak load growth rate is more than twice the historical peak load growth rate from 2002 to 2010.”

The document also challenged the assertion that the line is needed to enhance reliability.

“The applicants state that the growing demand for electricity in the La Crosse/Winona area would exceed the capabilities of the existing electrical system to deliver power reliably under contingency conditions,” the EIS stated. “At this time, that conclusion is still being questioned.”

The EIS further questioned the applicants’ assertion that additional transmission from Minnesota into Wisconsin is needed to “enable future power transfers into Wisconsin to support generation development elsewhere.”

The EIS countered, “In fact, current generation resources to meet the needs of the area appear adequate, and projected reserve margins and the need for economical energy typically drive investment decisions for generation.”

The 345-kV line and substation, part of the major CapX2020 Transmission Expansion Initiative (CapX2020), is being proposed by three Wisconsin electric utilities: Northern States Power Company–Wisconsin, Dairyland Power Cooperative, and WPPI Energy.

If ultimately approved, the line would extend from the Wisconsin border in the Mississippi River west of Alma, Wisc., through Trempealeau County to a new 345/161 kV substation, known as the Briggs Road substation, to be built on the southwest side of Holmen, Wisc., in La Crosse County. The line would run between 41 and 55 miles, depending on the route selected.

The final EIS, which was prepared jointly by the PSCW and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, will be used by the PSCW to make its final decision on this project. The commission’s decision on the proposed project is expected in June.