News | American Transmission Co.
Asset renewal projects, green energy interconnection requests on the rise
PEWAUKEE, Wis. – In a review of market conditions and transmission needs, American Transmission Co.’s annual 10-year plan for electric grid improvements highlights the need for asset renewal projects to ensure reliability, efficiency and safety, and increased interconnection requests from resource developers.
“The combination of aging infrastructure and extreme weather can compromise the reliable, efficient operation of the existing transmission system,” said Jim Vespalec, director of Asset Planning and Engineering. “That’s why approximately 54% of the projects in our 10-Year Plan are dedicated to maintaining and reinforcing the system and improving its resiliency. Our focus on asset renewal — strengthening the performance of our existing transmission facilities — helps to keep the lights on in the communities we serve.”
Andy Dolan, vice president of System Planning, said the rapid expansion of green sources of electric generation is being driven by a combination of consumer preference, reduced costs and political influences. “The generation mix is evolving from traditional fuels like nuclear, coal and natural gas to a growing reliance on sources of green energy including wind and solar,” Dolan said. “In fact, we have seen over 1,500 megawatts of coal generation retire in our footprint since the beginning of 2018; and we are studying proposals to connect over 5,800 MW of solar generation and almost 1,000 MW of wind generation.”
Specifically, ATC’s 10-year plan calls for expenditures of $1.7 billion in asset maintenance, $0.4 billion in network projects, $0.2 billion in regional Multi-Value Projects, and between $0.6 billion and $1.3 billion in other capital expenditures. The full plan can be viewed at atc10yearplan.com.
Work slated to begin next week near Avoca
PEWAUKEE, Wis. – A heavy-duty helicopter will be used next week to assist in the construction of a 69,000-volt transmission line replacement project along the Wisconsin River, from Avoca, Wis. to Lone Rock, Wis. The helicopter from Erickson Inc. will arrive in Avoca the weekend of Oct. 19. Transmission line construction, including lifts of the poles and cross arms, will begin Monday, Oct. 21 and is expected to finish by Friday, Oct. 25. Beginning the week of Nov. 4, a light-duty helicopter from Haverfield Aviation will assist with the construction of the poles and wires and install bird flight diverters along certain sections of the line.
Local officials, along with local law enforcement, have been notified of the work. Short term road closures can be expected on State Trunk Highway 60 when the new transmission wires are strung across the highway. Security will be on site around the clock while the helicopters are within the region.
Note to editors: View a map of the work area by clicking here. Information about ATC’s avian protection program can be found here. Flight schedules may vary and are subject to change, based on weather. In the interest of safety, please refrain from stopping, viewing and photographing the work from roadways.
Cause traced to mechanical failure of a voltage regulating component; DNR directing environmental cleanup; new transformer to be operational this month
PEWAUKEE, Wis. – American Transmission Co. is working on activities relating to the recent fires at Blount and East Campus substations in Madison and providing information regarding the cause, status of the environmental cleanup and efforts to restore the electrical equipment. As background, an ATC transformer caught fire at Madison Gas & Electric’s Blount Street Substation in Madison, Wisconsin, at 7:39 a.m. on Friday, July 19, 2019. A few minutes later a second fire occurred at the East Campus Substation. The two substations are electrically connected by underground cables. Both fires were extinguished by approximately 9 a.m.
“We are grateful that no one was hurt during this incident, and we are thankful to the city of Madison, the fire department and the police for helping to keep everyone safe,” said Paul Roehr, ATC vice president of Operations. “We apologize for the inconvenience the community experienced for not having power on a hot summer day. We are thankful to Madison Gas & Electric for working with us to restore power safely and quickly that same day.”
Cause investigation complete
ATC investigated the cause of the transformer fire with assistance from an expert from the Electric Power Research Institute. EPRI is an independent, nonprofit organization that conducts research in the electricity sector.
Together, ATC and EPRI performed a visual inspection of the damaged transformer at Blount Substation a few days after the fire and then conducted a controlled teardown of the transformer to disassemble and inspect the condition of various components to better understand the cause.
As previously shared, prior to the fire ATC had been closely monitoring a component on the Blount transformer because of observed anomalies. ATC consulted with the component manufacturer, conducted additional inspections July 15, 16 and 17, and made plans to take the transformer out of service for a detailed internal inspection on Monday, July 22.
“Based on our experience and consultation with the manufacturer, we took prudent action in scheduling the outage,” said Jim Vespalec, ATC director of Asset Planning and Engineering. “While the transformer suffered considerable damage in the fire, the inspection and teardown showed that the failure originated in the voltage regulating component due to mechanical failure, generating combustible gases and resulting in a fire.”
Failures like this are extremely rare, and ATC is conducting internal reviews and consulting industry peers to identify if any changes in work practices are necessary.
Environmental cleanup continuing
ATC continues to work in coordination with and under the direction of the Department of Natural Resources to contain, collect and properly dispose of the transformer’s insulating fluid and the water used to extinguish the fire.
There were approximately 18,000 gallons of insulating fluid in the transformer to insulate and cool the electrical components. A significant portion of the insulating fluid was recovered and collected into tanks for recycling under the direction of the DNR.
The DNR also asked ATC to contain and collect water from the stormwater system that the fire department used to extinguish the fire. With high lake levels at the time of the fire, there is no reason to believe any water was discharged into the waterways. The DNR also asked ATC to test for concentration levels of PFAS, which is a chemical in firefighting foam used to contain the fire. ATC is working with the city of Madison and the DNR to treat approximately 180,000 gallons of recovered water to remove PFAS.
Additional monitoring and coordination with the DNR will continue to determine if further action may be needed.
New transformer in place
ATC has been working to get the transmission equipment at Blount Substation back to working order. A new transformer sits on a new concrete pad in the substation, and the necessary electrical connections and tests are being completed with the goal of putting the new transformer in service by mid-October.
Within a week of the fire, ATC made immediate transmission repairs at the East Campus Substation to make it operational. More permanent repairs are planned for 2020.
ATC, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative receive Wisconsin regulatory approval for Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project
Wisconsin PSC verbally approves project at open meeting, final order to be issued by Sept. 30.
MADISON, Wis. – Following years of public involvement and regulatory review, American Transmission Co., ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative have received approval for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
At its open meeting on Aug. 20, the three PSC commissioners verbally approved issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and selected the route for the Wisconsin portion of the project. Additional regulatory approvals are required from the Iowa Utilities Board for the Iowa segment of the project, as well as federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for permission for the line to cross the Mississippi River.
The approximately 100-mile, 345-kilovolt transmission line is designed to electrically connect the Dubuque County, Iowa region to the Dane County, Wis. region. The project also includes construction of a new substation in Montfort, Wis.
The Wisconsin regulatory review process required the co-applicants to propose two route options for the project. During the open meeting, the PSC commissioners selected the Applicants’ preferred route with some minor variations. The commissioners also determined the conditions the co-applicants must meet to construct the project. The written order containing these conditions for the project is expected to be issued by Sept. 30.
“We are pleased that the PSC has recognized the need for and benefits of this project.” said ITC Midwest Project Manager Aaron Curtis. “This project will help ensure electric reliability and provide access to lower-cost power and renewable energy for all electric users in the region.”
“Dairyland’s cooperative members—and energy users across the region—depend on a reliable, safe transmission system,” said Ben Porath, Dairyland Vice President, Power Delivery. “The Cardinal-Hickory Creek line will help satisfy that essential need in a changing energy environment, while supporting renewable resources and delivering substantial benefits to Wisconsin in excess of the costs of the line.”
About 95 percent of the approximately 100-mile route that was selected uses existing utility and Interstate or U.S. Highway corridors. The end points for the new transmission line are ITC Midwest’s Hickory Creek Substation in Dubuque County, Iowa and ATC’s Cardinal Substation in the town of Middleton, Wis. The estimated cost is $492 million.
As one of 17 Multi-Value Projects approved by the region’s Midcontinent Independent System Operator in 2011, the cost and benefits of Cardinal-Hickory Creek are distributed throughout the multi-state northern MISO region. Approximately $66 to $72 million of the project’s costs will be allocated to Wisconsin ratepayers.
“Since we introduced this project in 2014, there has been a tremendous amount of public involvement. We sincerely appreciate the public’s constructive input prior to filing the project application, and during the state regulatory process,” said ATC Director of Environmental and Local Relations Greg Levesque. “We are pleased that in addition to the reliability and economic benefits, the PSC has also recognized the importance of this project as a way to support the changing energy mix in Wisconsin and across the Upper Midwest.”
ATC, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative will begin contacting Wisconsin property owners along the route beginning this fall. Construction is expected to begin in 2021 to meet an in-service date of 2023 if final approval is granted by the IUB and federal agencies.
Note to editors:
A map of the proposed route options and additional project information are available at www.cardinal-hickorycreek.com.
ATC, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power’s application and documents associated with the regulatory review process are available at www.psc.wi.gov under Docket No. 5-CE-146.
Formed in 2001 as the nation’s first multi-state transmission-only utility, American Transmission Co. is a Wisconsin-based company that owns and operates 9,860 miles of electric transmission lines and 568 substations in portions of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. Our transmission network enables the movement of electricity produced from all forms of generation resources to areas where it is needed – helping to keep the lights on, businesses running and communities strong. Visit our website at www.atcllc.com.
About ITC Midwest
ITC Midwest LLC is a subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp., the largest independent electricity transmission company in the U.S. ITC Midwest operates more than 6,800 circuit miles of transmission lines in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri, and holds utility status in Wisconsin. ITC Midwest is headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and maintains regional operating facilities in Dubuque, Iowa City and Perry, Iowa; and Albert Lea and Lakefield, Minnesota. For further information visit www.itc-holdings.com. ITC is a subsidiary of Fortis Inc., a leader in the North American regulated electric and gas utility industry. For further information visit www.fortisinc.com.
About Dairyland Power
Dairyland Power Cooperative, with headquarters in La Crosse, Wis., provides wholesale electricity to 24-member distribution cooperatives and 17 municipal utilities. A Touchstone Energy Cooperative, Dairyland’s service area encompasses 62 counties in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. For more information, please visit www.dairylandpower.com.
ATC: Alissa Braatz
ITC Midwest: Rod Pritchard
Dairyland Power Cooperative: Katie Thomson, 608-787-1323,
Last updated July 22, 2019 at 4:40 p.m.
PEWAUKEE, Wis. – Around 7:30 a.m. on Friday, July 19, an explosion and fire at the joint ATC/Madison Gas & Electric Blount Street Substation and East Campus Substation in Madison caused an ATC 69-kV/138-kV transformer to fail. The specific cause of the fires are not yet known.
By 8:50 a.m. on July 19, the fires at Blount Street and East Campus substations in Madison were contained, and no injuries were reported. We also worked with MGE to restore power to the Madison area as quickly and safely as possible.
Following the fire at the Blount Street Substation in Madison on Friday, the Department of Natural Resources has been on site coordinating with ATC and our environmental contractors during cleanup activities. The impact of the fire was largely contained within the substation. Over the weekend, the remaining insulating fluid from the damaged transformer was removed, and some fluid was recovered from outside the substation. Overall cleanup within the substation continues. The second fire at the East Campus Substation resulted in minor damage.
An ATC project team has been formed to determine the condition of the damaged substation equipment, make necessary repairs and investigate the cause. Members of the team are on site today. As previously communicated, ATC believes the fire is related to an electrical failure. We do not believe it was related to outdoor temperatures, which were around 80 degrees at the time of the fire early Friday morning.
ATC conducts routine inspections and maintenance on all of our equipment. Inspections were performed in the Blount Street Substation on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. As part of those inspections, we identified one component within the substation that we felt required additional review, and we made plans to analyze further this week. That component is part of our investigation. We do not want to draw any conclusions until we review all possibilities. Our goal is to determine the cause with reasonable certainty before the end of the month.
As reported Friday afternoon, other transmission infrastructure in the greater Madison area is sufficient to accommodate electric load while repairs are being made at the Blount Street Substation.
ATC thanks Madison’s Fire and Police departments for the quick response to maintain public safety. We also thank officials from the city of Madison and the community for their patience as we worked with Madison Gas & Electric to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.
We will continue to provide information to the media via news releases, Twitter, and our website. We ask the media to continue to work with us to provide the most accurate information to the public.