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Wind Power Transmission Could Be a Boon for Rural Wisconsin



August 8, 2011

LYONS, Neb. - Wisconsin is a net importer of electric power, which means the state uses more than is generated there. Right now, a new transmission line between Madison and La Crosse is being considered, which could bring more wind-generated electricity into the state.

In a new report, Johnathan Hladik, energy policy analyst with the Center for Rural Affairs, says more should be done to get the wind power from where it is generated to where it is needed.

"The transmission needs to be here, in the rural areas, because the whole idea is to bring the energy from where it's most abundant - which is the upper Midwest and the Great Plains region - to where it's needed most, which is demand centers on the coast, or even demand centers such as Chicago or St. Louis."

Expanding the electricity transmission grid is key not only to a clean energy future, but to creating more jobs in rural areas, the report says. And wind energy is price-competitive, Hladik adds.

"In high-wind areas, we're seeing many companies produce wind energy at around $65 per megawatt hour. In those same areas, coal is running $68 per megawatt hour. To see wind become price-competitive is really great news for the industry."

With adequate transmission, Hladik says, up to 40 percent of the nation's energy demand could be met by wind power.

The report notes plenty of economic benefits to increasing wind-power transmission, both in creating jobs to expand and maintain the grid, and in the rural areas where wind power is generated, Hladik explains.

"Think about the local cafe, or the local hotel, or the gas stations you have throughout town. Workers are going to be there. Some of the workers will be hired out of your community, but some of the workers will have to travel long distances, and they're going to eat at that cafe every day, they're going to go to that gas station to fill up their car. All of these other businesses throughout our rural communities are really going to benefit, as well."

Making an effort to upgrade existing transmission lines while strategically placing others is necessary to create jobs and a cleaner energy future, Hladik says.

The full report, "Connect the Dots: Transmission and Rural Communities," is available at www.cfra.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI
 

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