A controversial high-voltage power across western Wisconsin was put into service Wednesday after almost 3 years of construction.
A joint venture of American Transmission Company and utilities including Xcel Energy and Dairyland Power Cooperative, the 180-mile line known as Badger Coulee runs from Holmen to Middleton.
The $580 million project was championed by utilities and some renewable energy proponents who say it will enable clean and cheap wind energy from Minnesota and Iowa to reach big cities where there is demand for electricity.
Opponents argued it was an unnecessary expense that guarantees profits for the owners while discouraging conservation and local renewable energy investments.
Wisconsin ratepayers will cover about $87 million of the costs, which are shared among customers in 15 Midwestern states and one Canadian province.
The La Crosse County town of Holland last year challenged the Public Service Commission’s decisions to authorize construction and to put the line on separate poles on the other side of the highway from another recently-built transmission line.
The state Court of Appeals ultimately ruled in favor of the PSC.
Badger-Coulee is one of 17 projects authorized by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the company in charge of running the Midwestern electric grid. MISO estimates they will collectively enable 41 million megawatt-hours of wind generation each year. That’s the equivalent of about 4.5 million average Wisconsin homes.
The last of those projects, a line between Dubuque and Madison known as Cardinal-Hickory Creek, is currently under review by state and federal agencies and has generated strong opposition from conservation groups as well as municipalities and counties in the proposed path.