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View from around the state: Credit the PSC for pushing clean energy

The bipartisan push for more clean energy in Wisconsin got another boost last week when the Public Service Commission approved a power line that will carry increasing amounts of renewable energy to consumers here.

At the same time, Wisconsin’s first big solar project broke ground in Two Creeks, about 150 miles northeast of Madison in Manitowoc County. The project will generate 150 megawatts of energy from a half-million solar panels across some 800 acres. It will eventually produce enough electricity to power 33,000 homes, according to Wisconsin Public Service, which is partnering with Madison Gas and Electric on the welcome effort.

The PSC, which regulates Wisconsin’s utilities, previously approved an estimated 1.2 million solar panels on more than 2,000 acres in rural Iowa County. That project will generate electricity for an estimated 77,000 customers.

More good news came from Gov. Tony Evers this month when he signed an executive order creating an Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy. The office will be responsible for working with other state agencies and utilities to achieve carbon-free electricity in Wisconsin by 2050. The directive dovetails nicely with MGE’s similar target for carbon neutrality.

Wisconsin is making real progress at transitioning away from its heavy reliance on imported coal. When burned, coal releases enormous amounts of greenhouse gasses that contribute to a warming planet.

State leaders are addressing the challenge of climate change with bipartisan support. The PSC includes two appointees of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and one appointee of Evers. The entire commission agreed last week to move forward with the Cardinal-Hickory Creek high-voltage transmission line between Middleton and Dubuque, Iowa. It will cost about $492 million but save Wisconsin ratepayers over time by providing access to cheap and clean wind energy from states to the west, the commissioners agreed.

“The economic and reliability benefits outweigh the costs,” said Commissioner Mike Huebsch, a former GOP Assembly speaker.

The line will be “a cornerstone” to transitioning from fossil fuels to a clean energy grid, said PSC Chairwoman Rebecca Valcq, who is Gov. Evers’ designee.

Clean power has to move from where it’s produced to where it is needed, which the Cardinal-Hickory Creek line will help foster. And ratepayers in a dozen states will help cover the cost, reducing Wisconsin’s contribution to about 15 percent of the total price.

Wind and solar developers strongly backed the project, saying it will alleviate congestion that limits the output of existing wind farms. It also will enable more wind farms in states to the west, which have some of the best wind resources in the country.

Critics describe the 100-mile line as “monstrous towers ruining the views” of scenic southwest Wisconsin. But most of its path will be along existing highways.

Some environmental concerns along the route are legitimate. But the greater good of delivering renewable power where it needs to go must take priority.

Approving the line and continuing to expand Wisconsin’s solar and wind generation are key to achieving the governor’s strong goal for a carbon-free future.

— Wisconsin State Journal

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