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Baird Creek pollinator habitat restoration continues with help from ATC

The Baird Creek Preservation Foundation recently continued restoring 20 acres of native prairie in Green Bay with support from a $3,600 American Transmission Co. Pollinator Habitat Program grant.

The funding supported the establishment of a one-acre pollinator habitat to attract a diverse array of pollinators, reduce erosion and improve water quality to the Baird Creek watershed. A 2018 grant recipient, the Foundation’s original plan was to seed the acre in 2019, but flooding throughout Brown County caused the work to be postponed until 2020.

And then came the global pandemic and its challenges. A large group of volunteers was set to seed the acre in early October, but with a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, they canceled less than a week before. A call to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources led the Foundation to a contact at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who agreed to no-till drill the native pollinator seed mix.

A no-till drill is a planter that plants seeds in the ground without having to drastically disturb the topsoil (i.e., tilling or plowing). The no-till method decreases soil erosion, makes it easier for water to infiltrate the soil, and better retains organic matter and nutrients in the soil.

Since its establishment in 1997, the non-profit Baird Creek Preservation Foundation has been a significant player in the preservation and restoration of the Baird Creek Greenway and Watershed.

ATC’s Pollinator Habitat Program promotes planting low-growing vegetation within a transmission line right-of-way to beautify communities in a way that doesn’t compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system.

ATC accepts applications from July 1 through Sept. 30, and award recipients are selected and notified by the end of the year. Awards range from $100 to $5,000. Additional information and program applications can be found at atc-GrowSmart.com.

Generation at Two Creeks Solar Park now flowing on ATC’s system

ATC has recently completed a $1.3 million project to connect 150 megawatts of solar energy to our transmission system.

Two Creeks Solar Park the first solar utility-scale, renewable generation facility within ATC’s footprint. The completed facility is jointly owned by Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE). Energy produced at the site will serve customers of both companies, with WPS owning 100 MW and MGE 50 MW of the capacity. The project was developed by NextEra Energy Resources, LLC of Juno Beach, Fla.

The 800-acre solar field features 500,000 solar panels and is located in the town of Two Creeks and city of Two Rivers, Wis. NextEra contracted with M.J. Electric to build a 6-mile, 138,000-volt generator lead line north of the solar farm to connect the solar collector station with ATC’s system at the Kewaunee Substation – which is owned by Dominion Energy.

“This generation to transmission interconnection is the first of its kind on our system,” said Christine Rawson, ATC senior project manager. “We purchased switches and breakers in an unused substation bay at the Kewaunee Substation from Dominion and added new controls and relaying to connect the generator lead line to our system.”

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approved the Generator Affiliated Interest Agreement for this project in December 2019, ATC’s construction was completed in July 2020, and the generator lead line was successfully tested and synchronized onto ATC’s system in September 2020.

Antigo, Clintonville and Port Washington add more trees with support from ATC

Three Wisconsin cities recently added more trees to their communities thanks to grants from American Transmission Co.’s Community Planting Program.

The City of Antigo used its $800 grant to plant 20 trees in Remington Lake Park. The trees – a mix of oak, honey locust, elm and catalpa — combined with benches, an accessible pathway and a floating fishing pier will help enhance this popular park.

The City of Clintonville used its $1,500 grant to plant 11 Korean Sun pear trees along Roberts Street to replace trees that were removed during recent construction work.

The City of Port Washington used its $2,500 grant to add over 800 trees to the city’s parks and parkways. The city planted seedlings in natural areas, lightly branched liner trees in its nursery and bareroot trees along city parkways. The trees planted were a mix of oak, honey locust, elm, black and sweet gum, and redwood.

All trees were planted a safe distance from utility lines to support the safety and reliability of the electric system. The different tree species also help increase each city’s tree diversity, along with providing shade and additional natural beauty to the communities.

ATC’s Community Planting Program enables us to encourage and support communities to plant trees and vegetation that beautify the landscape in a way that doesn’t compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system. Since 2013, ATC has awarded approximately 240 communities and organizations with funds totaling more than $425,000.

ATC accepts applications from July 1 through Sept. 30, and award recipients are selected and notified by the end of the year. Awards range from $100 to $5,000. Additional information and program applications can be found at atc-GrowSmart.com.

Protecting Wisconsin’s most endangered reptile during construction projects

It’s National Reptile Awareness Day – a day to promote education, conservation, and appreciation for reptiles.

Did you know the most endangered reptile in our service area is the small, thick-bodied eastern massasuga rattlesnake? This snake depends on wetlands for food and shelter and often lives in nearby upland areas during the summer months. Biologists believe over half of the massaugas population has disappeared in just the past three decades.

Habitat loss is one of the main reasons for the massasaugas’ decline. Draining wetlands for farms, roads, homes, and urban expansion has eliminated much of their habitat. Roads, towns, and farm fields also prevent them from moving between the wetland and upland habitats they need.

Several ATC construction projects have required us to take measures to protect these snakes. With the approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, we’ve installed miles of snake exclusion fencing to keep them out of construction areas, plywood snake cover boards to help them regulate their body temperature, and mat roads that provide a flat surface to help construction crews spot them. We also train our construction crews on the proper protocol for reporting snake sightings to our environmental monitors.

ATC’s role in delivering clean energy to our communities

American Transmission Co.’s transmission system transports electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. (Watch this video to learn how we do it.) As the operator of the area electric transmission grid, we are committed to connecting communities with a sustainable energy future and have an important role to play when it comes to delivering clean energy such as wind and solar across our service area.

When a developer looks to build a new electricity generator and sell the power through the wholesale electricity market to energy consumers, they apply to an organization that administers wholesale electricity markets – in our service area that’s the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. The generator projects are essentially waiting in line, the MISO Generator Interconnection Queue, as they move through various stages of studies and approval. If all goes well, the generator developer works with ATC to connect the new generation to the area electric transmission system.

Requests to connect renewable energy sources to ATC’s electric transmission system are at an all-time high and are expected to continue to increase. In 2016, queued generation projects looking to connect to ATC’s system included 100 MW of solar energy and 196 MW of wind energy. In just four years, those numbers have increased substantially to 8,276 MW of solar and 1,555 MW of wind energy.

The transition to sustainable energy is occurring rapidly. States and utilities are setting ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals. As the electric industry moves toward greater use of sustainable energy, ATC is committed to connecting that energy to the communities we serve.