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Power project brings in helicopters to string high wires

aerial lineman and foreman Larry Alderman talks about working outside of a helicopter on power lines as part of the CapX2020 project at a landing zone northwest of Fountain City, Wis. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)

Aerial lineman and foreman Larry Alderman talks about a helicopter that is helping with work on power lines as part of the CapX2020 project. (AP Photos/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)

FOUNTAIN CITY, Wis. (AP) — Workers are using helicopters to string nearly 50 miles of power lines in Wisconsin as part of a $2.2 billion project.

Utility companies say the CapX2020 project would update the power grid and connect eastern cities with wind energy resources. The approved $550 million Wisconsin portion would deliver power from Hampton, Minn., to a planned substation in Holmen.

Regulators in Wisconsin are considering whether to approve another transmission line that would link the project with Dane County, costing up to $580 million.

Charles Jones, Xcel Energy’s project safety manager, told the La Crosse Tribune that helicopters are the most efficient way to string transmission lines that hang high above the ground. He said it’s easier than using cranes.

About 3 miles have been strung so far. The helicopters are also being used to attach 1,600 yellow plastic spirals so birds don’t collide with the wires.

One worker sat on a platform about 140 feet above ground Thursday morning, with temperatures around 12 degrees. In extreme cold, workers can only go for about 30 minutes at a time.

aerial lineman Cody Cannon works on a shield wire from a helicopter. as part of the CapX2020 project, northwest of Fountain City, Wis. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)

Aerial lineman Cody Cannon works on a shield wire from a helicopter as part of the CapX2020 project northwest of Fountain City.

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