A coalition of Wisconsin utilities, business groups and trade unions are throwing support behind a proposed high-voltage transmission line between Holmen and Madison.
In a letter released Tuesday, the Coalition Organized for Reliable Energy says the Badger Coulee project proposed last week by Xcel Energy and American Transmission Co. will benefit the state by reducing wholesale electricity costs and improving system reliability.
If approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, the proposed 345-kilovolt line known as the Badger Coulee project would connect the Madison area with CapX2020, a high-voltage line under construction between the Twin Cities and Holmen.
CORE, which previously supported a 220-mile ATC transmission line between Duluth and Wausau, includes Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s chamber of commerce.
“Reliable, affordable electricity is a top priority for WMC members across Wisconsin,” Eric Bott, director of environmental and energy policy for WMC said in a statement.
Other members echoed the rationale that the project is necessary to ensure reliability and cheap energy.
It’s also critical to connecting wind energy sources to the west to demand in the east, said Joe Sullivan, regional policy manager for Wind on the Wires, a St. Paul-based nonprofit advocacy group.
“There’s a tremendous amount of congestion in Wisconsin,” Sullivan said. “There’s power there but not the bandwidth to get it out.”
Opponents of the line argue that local generation and energy efficiency measures haven’t been given enough consideration.
“Any person who feels that regional utilities could know what is best for Wisconsin ratepayers should welcome a thorough and equal examination of the non-transmission alternatives,” wrote Rob Danielson, secretary for SOUL. “It’s been over two years since more than 90 municipalities and thousands of ratepayers asked the state and the utilities for this opportunity.”
Among the other 20 organizations signing the letter were five utilities and related trade groups, six labor organizations and a variety of building and trade groups representing grocers, restaurants and convenience stores.
“If you’re in the grocery business, you really can’t take a risk,” said Brandon Scholz, president of the Wisconsin Grocers Association.
The project could also mean about 100 local jobs, said Brady Weiss, vice president for the IBEW Local 953 union, which represents about 1,400 electrical workers at utilities including Xcel and Dairyland Power.
Badger Coulee includes two proposed routes out of the La Crosse area. One could scuttle a major commercial development in Onalaska; the other would put a second line of towers — often running side-by-side — along an eight-mile route between Holmen and Galesville.
CORE did not take a position on the routes.
Depending on the route, the project is estimated to cost $514 million to $552 million.
Because it has been deemed to be regionally beneficial, the cost will be shared by ratepayers in Wisconsin and Minnesota as well as Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and parts of Montana, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio.