By Todd Richmond
MADISON — State regulators approved plans Thursday for a $202 million power line that will run for dozens of miles through western Wisconsin’s bluff and river country, saying the project will improve regional and local transmission reliability.
Northern States Power Co., Dairyland Power Cooperative and WPPI Energy have been working to win the Public Service Commission’s approval for the joint project since 2008. They maintain the line will help meet rising demand for power in western Wisconsin.
Plans call for the 345-kilovolt line to connect to a segment running from Rochester, Minn., at the Mississippi River just west of Alma. The line then would run south through Galesville and terminate at a new substation just west of Holmen.
“We’re pleased the Public Service Commission supported the project need,” said Deb Mirasola, a spokeswoman for Dairyland Power Cooperative. “This line will help address reliability goals for members of our cooperative as well as address goals of transporting renewable energy from the west.”
The line will be one segment of a larger transmission project, dubbed CapX2020, involving nearly a dozen utilities.
The project is designed to spread power across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.
Opponents have complained the utilities have overestimated power demand in western Wisconsin and the line would slice through some of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the state.
Charlie Higley, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, which advocates for utility consumers, said it was unclear what kind of rate increases the utilities’ customers might face to pay for the line. He said consumers across the Midwest should chip in more for the Alma-Holmen line since it’s supposed to supply regional power.