American Transmission Co.

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Blog | American Transmission Co. - Part 2

Managing vegetation above the tree line

At American Transmission Co., our job is to operate our transmission system safely and reliably, and we take that responsibility seriously. An important part of that involves managing the vegetation around our transmission facilities to prevent outages. With more than 10,000 miles of transmission lines, that’s no small task.

One unique approach we take is to get help from above – help from a helicopter, that is. We use a light utility helicopter equipped with a heavy-duty aerial saw to trim the vegetation near some of our lines. Rotary saw blades are suspended on a 90- to 100-foot vertical boom that is attached to the helicopter.

The helicopter/aerial saw combination is particularly effective in areas where difficult terrain and wetlands make it challenging for ground crews to access the transmission line corridor. This technique is also very efficient, as the helicopter crew is able to complete in just a few hours what would take a ground-based crew several days to accomplish.

Next week an air-saw equipped helicopter crew will begin side-trimming vegetation along lines in five Wisconsin counties—Crawford, Richland, Rock, Shawano and Waupaca County.

In the interest of safety, if you see a helicopter/aerial saw in the area, please stay at least 300 feet away from the work area and refrain from stopping, viewing and photographing the work from a roadway.

Want to know more? Check out our YouTube channel for video footage of similar aerial saw vegetation management work.

Badger Hollow Network Upgrades project in service, connecting solar capacity to the grid

In late December 2021, ATC completed construction of our Badger Hollow Network Upgrades project in Iowa County, Wis. This high-voltage electric interconnection project provides a pathway of power from the 300-megawatt Badger Hollow Solar Park to our region’s electric grid.  

The Badger Hollow Solar Park is a facility jointly owned by We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas and Electric – with each utility owning 100 megawatts of the energy produced. The first 150MW of solar power was placed into service in December and the second 150MW is expected online by the end of 2022. 

To transport that much electric capacity onto the grid and also address thermal overloads from the prior configuration, we needed a new electric transmission line and other modifications in the region to bolster capacity on the system,” said Jon Meiers, ATC senior project manager. 

Components of the $15.6 million Badger Hollow Network Upgrades project included: 

  • Expanding the Highland Substation in the town of Eden, Wis. 
  • Constructing a new double-circuit 69,000-volt transmission line south from the Highland Substation to connect with line Y-138 in the town of Eden, Wis. 
  • Uprating the transmission line between Highland Substation and the Spring Green Substation by replacing or modifying select existing structures

A map of the project can be viewed here.

ATC awards $71,675 to 22 recipients for planting projects

American Transmission Co. has collectively awarded $71,675 to 22 recipients across its service area to plant trees and low-growing vegetation through its Community Planting and Pollinator Habitat programs. Now in its ninth year, ATC has given nearly 290 community awards for these projects totaling more than $560,000.

Vegetation funded through the Community Planting Program requires that communities plant trees outside of high-voltage transmission line rights-of-way. Low-growing, compatible vegetation funded through the Pollinator Habitat Program allows entities to cultivate species within the rights-of-way that benefit pollinator food and habitat. Both programs help maintain electric reliability of the transmission system by keeping tall-growing vegetation outside the rights-of-way.

Recipients of both programs commit to comply with ATC’s maintenance standards for all current and future planting plans, and urban forestry activities near high-voltage electric transmission lines.

Pollinator Habitat Program Recipients

“Part of the reason for the recent decline in pollinator populations is due to loss of habitat,” said ATC Environmental Project Manager Johanna Sievewright. “The Pollinator Habitat Program promotes vegetation that is both compatible with our vegetation management practices and it provides habitat for pollinators, which use the utility corridor as a flight path.”

The following entities received grants ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 to support pollinator habitat projects:

Community Planting Program Recipients

“We recognize that trees and vegetation are among the features that make communities special places for residents and visitors,” said ATC Vegetation Management Manager Michelle Stokes. “While we can’t allow trees or tall‑growing vegetation in our rights‑of‑way, ATC’s Community Planting Program encourages and supports communities to plant trees and vegetation that will beautify communities in a way that doesn’t compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system.”

The following entities received amounts ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 for planting projects on public property, outside the rights-of-way:

Both the Community Planting Program and Pollinator Planting Program are part of ATC’s Grow Smart® initiative, which advocates for and provides suggestions of low-growing, compatible vegetation that can be planted adjacent to and within transmission line rights-of-way. ATC accepts applications for both programs from June 1 through Sept. 30.

ATC recognized as Green Professional company by Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council

American Transmission Co. has been recognized by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council Green Masters program as a Green Professional organization after earning its second-highest score since the company’s participation in the program began.

The Green Masters Program identifies nine key areas that define business sustainability: energy, carbon, water, waste management, transportation, supply chain, education and outreach, workforce and governance. Participants must apply each year and are scored on how well they perform in each category.

The program encourages continuous improvement by offering three levels of achievement: Green Apprentice, Green Professional and Green Master. ATC was named a Green Professional organization from 2016-2018 and a Green Master organization 2019-2020. The Green Master designation is given to the top 20 percent of Wisconsin companies that apply.

We are proud of the Green Master-Professional achievement and our employees who make it possible us to achieve this recognition.

ATC helps five Wisconsin communities replace lost trees

This year, American Transmission Co.’s Community Planting Program helped five Wisconsin communities improve their urban tree diversity and replace trees lost to age, construction, disease and weather events.

Over 140 million acres of America’s forests are located in cities, towns and villages. These trees provide essential benefits for people and improve urban wildlife habitats.

Antigo (Langlade County)

The city of Antigo planted 10 trees to replace ones that had died, been removed due to risk, or uprooted during recent storms in City Park East and West. The trees were a mix of oak, maple and linden and met the city’s goals of species and tree age diversity. Volunteers from Mission Antigo and Wisconsin Public Service assisted with the plantings.

Chenequa (Waukesha County)

The village of Chenequa lost approximately 150 trees in a one-acre area this summer with the redesign and reconstruction of the intersection of County Highway C and Oakland Road. The village planted a mix of Norway spruce, white pine, tamarack, hackberry, swamp white oak, Kentucky coffee tree, quaking aspen, sugar maple and red maple trees and dogwood shrubs in the 0.85 acres of public land. Waukesha County filled the gaps between the trees with a pollinator seed mix. Chenequa has been a Tree City USA community for 35 years and is committed to maintaining a healthy and safe tree canopy throughout its public rights-of-way.

Oakfield (Fond du Lac County)

The village of Oakfield lost dozens of trees when an F5 tornado swept through the village center in 1996 and more recently had to remove ash trees infested with emerald ash borer in Village Park. The village planted trees from its tree farm along with a mix of Norway maples, scarlet maples, swamp white oaks, burr oaks and red oaks in Village Park and in a grassy area where the 34-mile Wild Goose State Trail crosses North Elm Street. Oakfield has been a Tree City USA community for 24 years and is committed to restoring the rich canopy that once towered over the village prior to the 1996 tornado.

St. Francis (Milwaukee County)

The city of St. Francis has its Veterans Memorial within an ATC easement with low growing trees, shrubs, perennial and annual flowers. One of the trees was dying and removed. The city and volunteer Memorial Committee selected and planted a flowering shrub to replace it.

Wausau (Marathon County)

Memorial Park in Wausau has lost a significant number of trees in the past several years due in part to the age of the trees and many of the other trees in the park are ash trees, which are susceptible to emerald ash borer. The city planted a mix of dawn redwood, Douglas fir, accolade elm and hawthorn. The hawthorn trees replaced crabapple trees that were donated by mothers of World War II veterans.

ATC’s planting program

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.

The program provides financial support to eligible cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes in ATC’s service area for planting projects on public property, outside transmission line rights-of-way. Program funds can be used to plant trees and other tall-growing vegetation. Since 2013, ATC has awarded approximately 240 communities and organizations with funds totaling more than $425,000.

ATC accepts applications from June 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.