Blog | American Transmission Co. - Part 2
At American Transmission Co., we are connecting people and communities with a sustainable energy future. Each year we publish an annual report to summarize highlights and provide a look into what we see for the future. This year we are combining our annual and environmental, social and governance reports into one summary document.
Our 2020 Report to the Community, available on our website, describes the industry’s rapid transition to a greater use of renewable energy resources and how we are working to connect the people and businesses in our service area with a sustainable energy future.
As a transmission company, we do not drive energy generation goals, but our system is the vital connection between renewable energy producers and electric consumers. As our service area continues to integrate more renewable sources – like wind and solar – we are working hard to ensure consumers receive that energy in a timely and reliable manner.
The report also describes our commitment to the environment, our communities, and protecting people and the electric grid during COVID-19. We care about the world we live in and strive to reduce the impact that construction, operation, and maintenance of our facilities has on the environment and pursue opportunities to promote sustainable, healthy ecosystems. We also care about the communities we serve and give back by donating our resources and time. We hope you’ll take the time to learn what we’ve been up to.
ATC recently installed more than 1,800 bird diverters by helicopter on the wires of five transmission lines in Columbia, Dane, Sauk, Waupaca and Waushara Counties.
Using a light-duty helicopter from Winco Powerline Services, ATC’s construction partner M.J. Electric, LLC installed the diverters to help keep birds safe. ATC uses two types of bird diverters – one is coil-shaped and the other features reflective tape that enhances visibility to birds at dawn and dusk. Both have proven effective in reducing bird collisions with shield wires.
“The diverters increase visibility of the wires and help protect birds from contacting the transmission lines while in flight,” said Michael Warwick, ATC senior environmental project manager. “Most of the diverters will be installed over or adjacent to wetlands and bodies of water to help protect larger, heavy-bodied species that do not maneuver easily such as geese, swans, pelicans, cranes and other waterfowl.”
Installing the diverters during the first week of March ensured the avoidance of most bird species’ nesting seasons. Bird diverters are just one of ATC’s avian protection measures.
Check out video of bird diverter installations at Hartman Creek State Park in Waupaca County, Wis.
Transmission project interconnecting 300-megawatt solar facility earns regulatory approval from PSCW
As ATC integrates more renewable energy generation within our service area, the electric transmission system continues to provide a vital connection between renewable energy producers and electric consumers. We recently earned state regulatory approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to construct electric transmission facilities that will interconnect with Wisconsin’s largest renewable energy generation facility to date within our service area – the 300 megawatt (MW) Badger Hollow Solar Park in Iowa County, Wis.
“ATC’s Badger Hollow Network Upgrades Project will provide the necessary high-voltage electric interconnection to transport the forthcoming clean energy from the Badger Hollow Solar Park onto the grid,” said Nick Hanold, ATC senior project manager.
Components of ATC’s project include expanding the Highland Substation in the town of Eden, Wis., constructing a new double-circuit 69,000-volt transmission and modifying existing transmission line structures in the region for required uprating. At an estimated cost of $15.6 million, construction will begin in August 2021 and is anticipated to be complete by the end of the year.
The Badger Hollow Solar Park is projected to come online in two phases: Badger Hollow I at 150MW with an anticipated Commercial Operation Date in 2021, and Badger Hollow II for the remaining 150MW with a COD by the end of 2022. Generation from Badger Hollow I will interconnect to the transmission system to the Highland Substation through buildouts ATC completed in August 2020.
Among the Midwest’s largest solar facilities, the Badger Hollow Solar Park is jointly owned by WEC Energy Group utilities We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), as well as Madison Gas and Electric (MGE). Each utility will own 100 MW of the energy produced. The facility is being developed by Chicago-based Invenergy.
When an ATC employee read a story in the Stoughton Courier Hub about a light pole with an osprey nest being removed from a baseball diamond at Stoughton High School, he kicked off a concerted team effort to provide the birds with a new place to raise their young.
ATC contacted the city of Stoughton and Stoughton Utilities about donating a utility pole and nesting platform. ATC’s environmental department, together with local avian expert and Stoughton resident Patrick Ready, identified a suitable location for a new osprey nest. Before approving the location, the City solicited feedback from adjacent residents.
ATC’s construction partner M.J. Electric delivered the to the location and ATC delivered the three-by-three-foot nesting platform to Stoughton Utilities, which had agreed to install the pole with the assistance of its construction partner Hooper Corp.
Stoughton Utilities and Hooper installed the new nesting platform and pole in a public green space adjacent to Paradise Pond and south of Nottingham Road roughly a half-mile west of Stoughton High School.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, about 87 percent of Wisconsin’s breeding osprey population nest on platforms. Osprey generally return to Wisconsin in late March/early April to raise their young.
ATC maintains more than 200 nesting platforms on or adjacent to its transmission structures to enable eagles, herons, osprey and other birds to nest safely. Most of ATC’s nesting platforms support breeding osprey pairs.
In 2020, ATC installed three osprey nesting platforms near Portage, Wis., and donated two nesting platforms to the city of Manitowoc and six to the Waupaca Biological Field Station to support their osprey conservation efforts.
Two Wisconsin cities and a county park replaced trees lost to emerald ash borer infestations in 2020 thanks to grants from American Transmission Co.’s Community Planting Program.
The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle introduced from Asia. First detected in Wisconsin in 2008, it has since been found in more than 50 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. EAB attacks all species of ash trees, except mountain ash, which are not true ash trees.
The village of Bellevue used its $1,500 grant to plant shingle oak, frontier elm and dawn redwood trees within the East River Trail Arboretum, which also helped increase the village’s tree diversity.
The city of Plymouth used its $2,000 grant to help replace some of the 100 trees damaged by emerald ash borer infestation. The city purchased small trees in the spring and kept them in a gravel bed until fall to help increase each tree’s root mass to improve the trees’ survival rate. This approach enabled the city to stretch its funding and plant twice as many trees. The trees were planted in parks and other public spaces throughout the city.
The Ozaukee County Planning and Parks District used its $2,500 grant to continue restoring a warm-season prairie within Tendick Nature Park, a 125-acre county park approximately 5 miles north of Saukville. The County planted a variety of native trees – like American hornbeam, bur oak, quaking aspen and white oak – within and around the prairie restoration site to help create a savannah-like ecosystem, increase the diversity of the surrounding forest and wetland habitats, and help filter stormwater that flows from the park into the Milwaukee River.
Our Community Planting Program encourages and supports 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.