Wisconsin regulators receive applicant testimony in Wauwatosa project

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) received a flurry of testimony and exhibits in advance of the noon (CDT) Sept. 13 deadline for submission of testimony by the applicants in the Western Milwaukee County Electric Reliability Project (Docket No. 05-CE-139).

The transmission project consists of two 138-kV lines, each less than two miles long, which are needed to improve the reliability of the electric system that serves the rapidly growing County Grounds area of the county. The project is being developed jointly by American Transmission Company (ATC) and Wisconsin Electric Power Company, d/b/a We Energies.

According to testimony submitted by We Energies’ supervising engineer Steven Pecha, electrical demand by the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center that will be served by the new lines will more than double in the next 10 years, increasing “from 19.0 MVA observed in 2011 to 41.9 MVA by 2021.”

The medical center is a consortium of six health care institutions, including Level 1 adult and pediatric trauma centers. Because of the critical nature of the Level 1 facilities, the new transmission lines will connect to ATC’s facilities from two independent sources; one from the south and one from the west, according to testimony submitted by Peter Holtz, ATC’s routing and siting manger for the project.

Although the companies developed, analyzed, and submitted 25 different route combinations in the joint application filed Feb. 27, eight were not found to be acceptable because they could not meet the Level 1 reliability criteria of locating two lines in a common corridor, according to Holtz’s testimony.

Although they eliminated some routes from consideration, the developers did not identify preferred alignments among the 17 remaining alternatives.

“Because this is a very congested, urban area, there are challenges to identifying a clear winner,” an ATC spokesperson told TransmissionHub Sept. 13. “We identified the routes we think rise to the top – one from the west and one from the south,” but left the final decision to the PSC.

The developers did take environmental impacts into consideration when identifying route alternatives. As part of the environmental assessment, developers determined that no transmission structures would be placed within the boundaries of navigable waterways, including Underwood Creek.

Temporary disturbances to wetlands would occur if certain underground routes are selected, while other routes would require the removal of some trees within wetlands, according to testimony by ATC’s environmental project manager Nayo Parrett.

For other alignments, “ATC has attempted to minimize the visual impacts of overhead lines by proposing to locate them in a way that minimizes residential tree loss and to co-locate them with existing infrastructure where practicable,” Parrett’s testimony said.

The project is estimated to cost from $20m to $40m depending on which routes and route options are chosen by the PSC. Whatever the final cost, the financial impact on ATC’s customers should be minimal.

“A retail customer with a $100 monthly electric bill would see an increase in 2016 of $0.07 per month attributable to the highest cost route and $0.04 per month attributable to the lowest cost route,” according to an analysis cited in testimony filed by ATC corporate financial planning strategist James Hodgson.

ATC socializes the costs of its infrastructure projects across its entire region, according to its spokesperson, so the costs of this project and others are shared by all customers within its service territory that spans Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

Testimony from PSC staff and intervenors is due Oct. 15.

The PSC will review all the documentation submitted, then hold public and technical hearings in starting Nov. 27. It will assess the information, fully evaluate the project, and render its decision, which is expected some time in 1Q13, according to ATC.