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Transmission Line Delay Will Jeopardize the Delivery of Clean Energy

Utilities seeking to build a transmission line connecting Iowa and Wisconsin are appealing a court decision blocking the Mississippi River crossing and say construction delays could leave the power grid more vulnerable to blackouts, limit clean energy production and lead to higher electricity prices.

Earlier this year, federal Judge William Conley sided with four conservation groups that sued to stop the $492 million Cardinal-Hickory Creek line, finding the environmental review was inadequate and the project is incompatible with the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

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MGE, WEC Energy to Purchase Additional Solar, Battery Storage

Madison Gas and Electric, in partnership with We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service subsidiaries of WEC Energy Group, has received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to purchase solar energy and battery storage from the Paris Solar-Battery Park. MGE will own 20 MW of solar energy and 11 MW of battery storage from the 200 MW solar and 110 MW battery storage facility in Kenosha County, Wisconsin.

“We are working every day toward deep carbon reductions and net-zero carbon electricity by 2050,”according to Jeff Keebler, MGE’s Chairman, President and CEO. “The Paris Solar-Battery Park continues the progress we’ve already made increasing renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions and advancing new technologies to benefit all our customers. MGE’s first addition of utility-scale battery storage is a new and important technology to help us reach our sustainable energy goals.”

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Xcel Energy named one of The World’s Most Ethical Companies

For the third year in a row, Xcel Energy has been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies® by Ethisphere, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices. Xcel Energy is one of only nine honorees in the Energy & Utilities category, and one of only five of those companies in the United States recognized this year. In 2022, 136 honorees were recognized spanning 22 countries and 45 industries.

Forbes names Alliant Energy to America’s Best

For the fourth year in a row, Alliant Energy has been named to Forbes list of America’s Best Midsize Employers. Presented by Forbes and Statista Inc., the list spans twenty-five industry sectors and recognizes 500 large and 500 midsize employers in the United States. 


“This recognizes the great people at Alliant Energy and the way they bring our purpose to life,” said Diane Cooke, Vice President of Human Resources at Alliant Energy. “Guided by a shared purpose of supporting customers and building stronger communities, we work together to create a safe workplace where everyone feels like they belong and can use their unique backgrounds, talents and perspectives to their fullest potential.”

American Transmission Co. Announces Promotion

American Transmission Company has named Greg Levesque vice president of external affairs and communications.

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Alliant Energy Addresses Solar Energy Myths: EMF Radiation and Sound

When it comes to solar energy, there is a lot of information out there—but not all of it is accurate. Alliant Energy doesn’t want people misinformed, so it has prepared information aimed at dispelling some of the myths behind solar power.

Myth: Solar panels generate harmful electromagnetic fields.

Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) are invisible areas of energy, often referred to as radiation. They’re usually associated with the use of electrical power and lighting. EMFs come in two forms: non-ionizing and ionizing. Non-ionizing EMFs are low-level forms of radiation generally perceived as harmless to humans. According to the CDC, effects from non-ionizing radiation are not common. In fact, people come in contact with non-ionizing EMFs through radio and TV waves, cell phones, and microwaves every day without negative health impact.

Similarly, solar panels generate low levels of non-ionizing radiation, but even then, it’s unlikely to reach the general public. People outside of the fenced perimeter of a solar facility are not exposed to a significant amount of EMFs. Therefore, communities around solar farms are not at risk for adverse health issues from EMFs.

What about pacemakers and defibrillators?

Those who rely on medical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators may still have questions about a solar project’s potential effect on their device. However, research shows there is no reason for concern—EMF levels outside a solar facility’s fence is less than 1/1000 of the level at which manufacturers test these medical devices for EMF interference.

Myth: Solar farms are loud.

Solar projects have gotten an undeserved bad rap for being noisy. In reality, solar farms make very quiet neighbors, especially at night. There are only a few parts of a solar project that generate any audible sound. Tracking solar panels that follow the position of the sun throughout the day do create some sound when they’re moving, but this sound is subtle and not continuous. Inverters and transformers that move electric power to the grid also make sound. However, in typical utility-scale solar farm designs, this equipment is located central to the solar panels that feed them energy. This puts them as far away from the farm’s security fence as possible and reduces the sound that reaches beyond the project’s perimeter. The moving components of a solar farm also operate only during daylight hours when the sun is shining and power is produced. When the sun goes down, there is no audible noise from the solar equipment.

MGE RECEIVES APPROVAL TO PURCHASE PART OF NEW WIND FARM

Madison Gas and Electric has received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to purchase part of the Red Barn Wind Farm.

The 9.1 MW purchase of the 92-MW wind farm is in partnership with Wisconsin Public Service (WPS). In total, it will be an approximately 12,000-acre project that will feature 28 turbines.

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JUDGE BLOCKS MISSISSIPPI RIVER CROSSING FOR $492M POWER LINE

A federal judge has blocked a power line under construction in Iowa and Wisconsin from crossing the Mississippi River after finding the government’s environmental review was inadequate. Judge William Conley’s ruling throws the fate of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line into question just months after utilities began construction on the $492 million project.

Conley sided with four conservation groups that sued two federal agencies over approvals of the contentious 102-mile line between Dubuque, Iowa, and Middleton. In an order, Conley said the Rural Utilities Service’s environmental review did not give adequate consideration to alternatives and therefore failed to comply with federal law.

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WEC ENERGY GROUP'S JAYHAWK WIND FARM GOES INTO SERVICE

WEC Energy Group has announced that the 190-megawatt Jayhawk Wind Farm in Bourbon and Crawford counties, Kansas, has achieved commercial operation.

Jayhawk is generating renewable energy that is being sold under long-term contract to Meta, formerly Facebook.

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PSC HELD PERFORMANCE-BASED REGULATION WORKSHOP

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC or Commission) held an in-person workshop on Performance-Based Regulation on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, as part of its work in its Roadmap to Zero Carbon docket.

The workshop was designed to facilitate education and dialogue among all interested parties on considerations and options associated with the pursuit for performance-based regulation and will inform Commission decision-making as Wisconsin transitions to zero-carbon electricity consumption by 2050. The workshop focused on the following question:

  • What are appropriate methods and strategies for using performance-based regulation to support better performance outcomes for Wisconsin utilities?

ALLIANT ENERGY NAMES MAYURI FARLINGER VICE PRESIDENT – CUSTOMER AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Mayuri Farlinger has been named vice president of customer and community engagement effective January 1, 2022. Farlinger’s promotion was announced by Terry Kouba, President of Alliant Energy’s Iowa energy company and Senior Vice President of Operations. With this announcement, over one third of Alliant Energy’s senior executive officers are now female. 

“Mayuri’s proven and ongoing leadership and initiative at Alliant Energy energizes others and delivers positive results,” according to Kouba. “Her passion for providing innovative solutions is critical to delivering on our purpose to serve customers and build stronger communities.” 

In this role, Farlinger is responsible for growing Alliant Energy’s customer base in Iowa by leading the company’s economic development, community engagement and account management areas. She will direct and provide leadership for regulatory activities and initiatives supporting all electric and natural gas customers in Iowa. Farlinger also is responsible for directing and implementing the day-to-day delivery of gas and electric service, power plant operations in Eastern Iowa, as well as working with the company’s Safety Blue Hat program across the state.

XCEL ENERGY’S DAKOTA RANGE I AND II WIND FARM NOW OPERATIONAL

Xcel Energy has announced that its Dakota Range I and II Wind Farm is fully operational and is now delivering clean, renewable energy to Xcel Energy’s Upper Midwest customers.

Since 2017, the company has added about 2,000 megawatts of new or rebuilt wind energy to the Xcel Energy Upper Midwest wind portfolio, enough to power more than 945,000 average homes. Overall, the company estimates that more than sixty percent of the energy provided to Upper Midwest customers is currently carbon free, with more than twenty percent of that coming from wind energy. At the end of 2020, Xcel Energy became one of the first energy providers in the United States to reach 10,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity online for customers in the states it serves.

CONSTRUCTION COMPLETE FOR PORT WASHINGTON-SAUKVILLE REBUILD

The American Transmission Company (ATC) has completed construction of the Port Washington-Saukville Rebuild Project. This project included a 4.8-mile, 138,000-volt transmission line rebuild, along with modifications at the Port Washington Substation in Port Washington, Wisconsin, and Saukville Substation in Saukville, Wisconsin.

Initially identified in ATC’s 10-Year Assessment in 2009, this $25 million infrastructure investment strengthens electric transmission reliability in the southeast Wisconsin area and improves operating flexibility under certain system conditions. The project was officially placed into service December 18, 2021.

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ALLIANT ENERGY TO COMPLETE PRAIRIE DU SAC DAM IMPROVEMENT

Alliant Energy will soon complete its Prairie du Sac Dam improvement project. The Prairie du Sac Dam parking lot area and access road was closed December 16-17 and December 20-23, 2021, to ensure a safe area for Alliant Energy crews to complete the project and remove barges from the Wisconsin River above the dam. 

“We’re excited to wrap up this improvement project, and our number one priority is to complete our work safely,” according to Eric Curtis, Alliant Energy Project Manager. “Using the parking lot as a barge drop off and demobilization staging area will allow crews to finish their work while ensuring the safety of the public, especially those who visit the area for recreational activities.”

The dam improvement project utilized a crane secured to a barge to replace the existing spillway operator deck. The spillway operator deck allows for safe operation of the spillway gates, which benefits the public who enjoy recreation near the dam. 

The parking lot area and access road were closed to public vehicle and pedestrian traffic from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. December 16-17 and December 20-23. The closure allowed about two dozen large construction vehicles to safely remove sections of the barges from the site. Outside of these dates and times, access to the site and waters around the dam remained open.

“For more than 100 years, the Prairie du Sac Dam has delivered clean, safe and reliable energy,” said Curtis. “We appreciate the public’s understanding and patience while we complete this project

MORE WISCONSIN UTILITY-SCALE SOLAR PROJECTS WENT ONLINE IN 2021 THAN IN ANY OTHER YEAR

Wisconsin utilities installed and placed into service more solar power in 2021 than any other year as utility-scale solar projects are increasing. The growth of renewable electricity is expected to accelerate as part of efforts to meet carbon reduction goals to stave off the worst effects of climate change. 

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RENEWABLE DEREGULATION

by James Buchen, WUI Executive Director

Legislation has been introduced (SB 490, AB 527, SB 702) that will exempt entities that own or operate renewable generating facilities from traditional utility regulation. The effect of these bills will be to shift significant costs to nonparticipating electric customers and give access to Wisconsin’s energy grid to developers of such projects at no cost to them.

Under current law, persons that provide energy to the public, directly or indirectly, are considered utilities subject to regulation by the PSC. This regulatory scheme is designed to protect consumer interests while providing reliable energy at a reasonable cost. The system also serves to minimize the potential for one group of residential rate payers to be forced to subsidize the price of energy for another group of residential rate payers. In addition, the system ensures that utilities have the necessary capital to finance the construction and maintenance of a large scale, reliable, low cost energy system by providing investors with a fair rate of return on their investments.

Wisconsin utilities are committed to prudently expanding renewable energy generation including substantial investment in solar and wind energy. 



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ALLIANT ENERGY ANNOUNCES COMMUNITY MICROGRID

Alliant Energy has announced plans for a community microgrid in Richland County, which will help improve reliability for some customers. The community-based microgrid is set to be built in the Village of Boaz as part of the company’s efforts to advance its Clean Energy Blueprint,  said the director of Engineering and Customer Solutions.

Alliant Energy noted the project is the first of its kind for them, involving the construction of a small-scale power grid. It will be able to be disconnected from a traditional grid to operate independently in the event of an outage or service disruption. When it is disconnected, Alliant Energy stated that it will serve customers with power from other sources such as a battery, wind, solar or a combination. The site will be built along County Road E in the Dayton Township and will provide for about 120 customers. It is expected to be completed by the spring of 2022.

REGULATORS APPROVE $370M NATURAL GAS STORAGE PROJECT

Wisconsin utility regulators have approved plans for a $370 million natural gas storage project in southeastern Wisconsin designed to provide fuel when demand spikes. We Energies and Wisconsin Gas say the dual facilities in Jefferson and Walworth counties are needed to improve reliability and resilience in the future.

WEC ENDING COAL USE, WILL SHIFT NEWER UNITS TO NATURAL GAS BY 2035

Three months after WEC Energy Group executives said they were exploring the feasibility of adding natural gas capabilities at the company’s newer Oak Creek coal-fired plants, the company has announced a plan to eliminate coal as an energy source by 2035. The announcement came during a call with the investment community in November of 2021.

WEC Energy Group has reduced carbon dioxide emissions more than 50 percent below 2005 levels. By making operating refinements, retiring less efficient generating units, and executing an aggressive capital plan, WEC committed to a 60 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025, 80 percent reduction by the end of 2030 and phasing out coal by 2035. WEC Energy Group’s Chairman, Gale Klappa, told analysts the newer Oak Creek units running on natural gas “will remain a key part of  our fleet for many, many years to come.”

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ONION RIVER SOLAR PROJECT TRANSITIONS TO ALLIANT ENERGY

Alliant Energy has reached a major milestone as it acquired ownership of the 150-megawatt Onion River Solar Project, located in the town of Holland in Sheboygan County. The Onion River Solar Project is the sixth and final project Alliant Energy acquired as part of an approved filing with the Public Service Commission to add 675 MW of solar energy generation in Wisconsin. Alliant Energy acquired the project from Ranger Power and D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI) and is contracting with a subsidiary of DESRI to construct the project.

This 1,000-acre, 150-MW solar project will create approximately 250 jobs. Construction will begin in the spring with a targeted completion date in the fall of 2023. Once operational, the project will generate enough electricity to power nearly 40,000 Wisconsin homes. Combined, the town and county will receive an estimated $600,000 in annual shared revenues for the next 30 years to be used as determined by local communities and their elected officials.

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