Introduction

The dynamic nature of the electric industry today means that planning for continued transmission system reliability must involve both looking ahead and looking around.

As owner and operator of the transmission system in portions of the Upper Midwest, it’s our duty to enable the movement of electric power from all sources of generation from where they are produced to communities where the energy is used. The rapid expansion of green sources of electric generation is happening at a pace that very few anticipated – being driven by a combination of consumer preference, reduced costs and political influences. The generation mix is evolving from traditional fuels like nuclear, coal and natural gas to a growing reliance on sources of green energy including wind and solar. In fact, we have seen over 1,500 megawatts of coal generation retire in our footprint since the beginning of 2018; and we are studying proposals to connect over 5,800 MW of solar generation and almost 1,000 MW of wind generation. We recently put into service the 180-mile Badger Coulee transmission line and received Wisconsin regulatory approval for the 100-mile Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line. These two Multi-Value Projects in western Wisconsin establish long delivery paths to significantly increase ATC’s ability to import high-output wind power from the west while also bolstering local reliability.

In addition to the changing energy mix, new technologies are taking hold including ultra-fast-charging electric vehicles, sun-tracking solar plants and battery storage. We are closely following these developments so that we are prepared to reliably and efficiently deliver power to and from these new technologies.

While the large projects mentioned above are important to our energy future, our focus on asset renewal—strengthening the performance of our existing transmission facilities—helps to keep the lights on in the communities we serve. The combination of aging infrastructure and extreme weather can compromise the reliable, efficient operation of the existing transmission system. That’s why approximately 54% of the projects in our 10-Year Plan are dedicated to projects to maintain and reinforce the system and upgrade its resiliency. As an example, we recently upgraded a 75-year-old 69-kilovolt line that was one of our worst performers especially during snowy, windy and icy conditions. Upgrades on the 53-mile line now mean improved reliability to five delivery points in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A project in southwestern Wisconsin rebuilt 29 miles of 69-kV, was rebuilt to improve reliability to five delivery points, and in northeast Wisconsin 55 miles was rebuilt to improve reliability to 10 delivery points.

As always, we work closely with our utility customers to understand their infrastructure needs. By doing so, together we can coordinate the design of the distribution and transmission systems to efficiently serve the load.

Whether it’s accommodating new technologies or modernizing the electric system, we remain focused on reliability and efficiency. We commit to conducting an annual review of market conditions and transmission needs. Our 10‑year forecast calls for similar capital expenditures to last year, with $2.9 to $3.6 billion in system improvements. This site contains a summary of ATC’s planning initiatives, and an overview of asset renewal and network‑driven projects in each of our five planning zones.

Transmission investments

Projections from past and current Transmission System Assessments

 20152016201720182019
Specific Network Projects$1.4B$1.3B$0.7B/$1.0B$0.5B$0.4B
Regional Multi-Value Projects$0.5B$0.5B$0.4B$0.3B$0.2B
Asset Maintenance$1.4B$1.4B$1.4B$1.5B$1.7B
Other Capital Categories$0.4B/$1.2B$0.4B/$1.2B$0.3B/$0.8B$0.5/$1.1B$0.6B/$1.3B
Total 10-Year Capital Cost$3.7B/$4.5B$3.6B/$4.4B$2.8B/$3.6B$2.8/$3.4B$2.9B/$3.6B
Jim Vespalec
Director, Asset Planning & Engineering
Andy Dolan
Vice President of System Planning