ATC withdraws application for Barnhart-Branch River project

American Transmission Co. (ATC) has decided to reconsider its plan to build the 345-kV Barnhart-Branch River transmission project following an announcement from Dominion (NYSE:D) that it will close its Kewaunee Power Station in Carlton, Wis., next year.

On Oct. 16, ATC submitted its application to the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin for the approximately $260m, 50-mile project, but the developer asked the PSC on Oct. 30 to withdraw the application.  

“Given the significant impact the Kewaunee plant closing will have on the balance between electric demand, generation and transmission in eastern Wisconsin, we have decided to withdraw the application at this time,” ATC Director of Planning Ron Snead said in a statement.

Dominion announced the decommissioning plan on Oct. 22 after an unsuccessful search for a buyer for the 556 MW nuclear facility.

“Our decision was based purely on economics,” Dominion President and CEO Thomas Farrell said in a statement. “Dominion was not able to move forward with our plan to grow our nuclear fleet in the Midwest to take advantage of economies of scale. In addition, Kewaunee’s power purchase agreements are ending at a time of projected low wholesale electricity prices in the region. The combination of these factors makes it uneconomic for Kewaunee to continue operations.”  

Dominion purchased the facility in July 2005. ATC initiated development of the Barnhart-Branch River project, in part, to remove operating restrictions on Kewaunee and NextEra Energy’s (NYSE:NEE) Point Beach nuclear facility.

Point Beach went through a power uprate project in 2011 that added 17% to its power output, a NextEra spokesperson told TransmissionHub.  

“We replaced many of the existing components with state-of-the-art equipment, and that allowed us to increase our output reliably, safely, and efficiently,” the spokesperson said.  

The closing of Kewaunee, according to ATC’s initial analysis, would alleviate some of the issues addressed by the proposed Barnhart-Branch River project. ATC plans to conduct additional internal research on transmission system reinforcements that would support full operation of the Point Beach facility.

“ATC will conduct its studies over the next eight to 10 weeks to identify what needs remain in the area,” an ATC spokesperson told TransmissionHub on Oct. 31.

The Midwest ISO (MISO) will perform a separate power grid reliability review prior to the closing of Kewaunee.  

“Since we are a member of MISO, we will be in communication with them,” ATC’s spokesperson said. “We’ll do our planning study, and we’re likely to share that with MISO.” 

FERC requires MISO to keep information about generator closures confidential until a formal request to retire a unit is submitted and the unit is determined to be potentially designated a system support resource (SSR).  

“MISO is aware of Dominion’s and ATC’s announcements concerning the Kewaunee Power Station,” MISO Director of Expansion Planning Jeff Webb told TransmissionHub Oct. 31. “Per MISO’s tariff, generators need to request retirement before they can retire. If such a request is received, MISO will evaluate the impact of the retirement on grid reliability. MISO’s tariff requires the study to be completed and, if necessary, an SSR agreement entered into within six months of the request. Studies typically require two to three months to determine whether there are reliability issues if the unit is removed from service.”