As our energy system utilizes more clean, homegrown, distributed generation, high-quality transmission and distribution lines will become even more critical. That’s what makes a recent and possibly overlooked decision in Wisconsin so encouraging.
Thanks to the hard work of Fresh Energy and partner organizations, the Badger Coulee Transmission Line has now been approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. The line, running from La Crosse to Madison, is an important infrastructure investment that will expand renewable energy not just in Wisconsin, but also the entire in Midwest. The line is specifically designed to relieve an electricity transmission bottleneck in western Wisconsin that, when backed up, requires existing wind farms in Minnesota and Iowa to shut-down, even during windy times. This curtailment wastes clean, renewable electricity that will be available with Badger Coulee.
New wind farms that are ready to go can now move forward thanks to Badger Coulee. Future wind development in areas with some of the Midwest’s best wind resources simply will not be built without it.
More wind from the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa is good for the region and Wisconsin. Simply put, the more wind in our electricity mix, the less fossil fuels will be burned. And by increasing regional grid connections, Badger Coulee gives Wisconsin more access to cheaper electricity, which puts downward pressure on customer rates. Moreover, because the whole region benefits from more wind and cheaper electricity, the whole region is sharing the line’s costs – leaving Wisconsin customers paying less than 15 percent.
Regional wind, in addition to solar and energy efficiency, must play a role in our clean energy future. Badger Coulee is a critical way to get Wisconsin, and the entire upper Midwest, one step closer to that future, while also helping the economy.