QandA

Frequently asked questions

General

What is a transmission line?

A transmission line is a set of three wires, called conductors, attached to structures that deliver electric power from generating plants to substations. The power is then distributed to consumers from the substations through lower-voltage distribution lines. The three transmission line conductors carry the electric power, but transmission lines also may have one or two smaller wires called shield wires at the top of the structure that protect the line from lightning strikes. Transmission lines are designed to operate at a specific design voltage. The higher the voltage, the more electric power a transmission line can carry. 

What can I do if I have a question or comment on a project?

Visit the contact section of this website and direct your questions or comments to any of the locations listed. Phone numbers, e-mail, and a general mailing address are provided for each contact. If you have a question or comment regarding a particular project, please provide that in the subject line.

Does the transmission line affect television or radio?

Transmission lines do not usually interfere with normal television or radio reception. In some cases, interference is possible at a location close to the right-of-way, due to weak broadcast signals or an abnormal condition on the line. With a line operating at 345-kilovolts, the electrical influence is greater so the possibility of interference is increased. This is one reason 345-kilovolt line routing studies try to achieve separations of 300 feet from residential dwellings.

Economics

Who benefits from transmission lines?

Transmission lines benefit everyone—from small business owners and consumers to large industrial users and the towns and communities that grow and thrive every day.

How do transmission lines benefit the local economy?

Transmission lines ensure that a dependable supply of electricity remains available for all users. Residential consumers have the affordable electricity they need. Local businesses have the energy they need to expand and create new jobs to remain competitive. And local public health and safety facilities have the electricity they need to provide important services.

Will transmission lines impact the value of my property?

People on whose property transmission lines are built are compensated fairly for the use of their land based on the appraised value of the easement area. In addition, ATC works with landowners when locating the structures to ensure that the existing terrain, land use and environmental concerns remain compatible with providing the safe, reliable and economical transmission of electricity.

You can learn more about this topic by visiting the property value page of the website.

Electric Demand

Can electric demand be met through alternative forms of energy production and conservation?

Alternative forms of energy production and conservation are important parts of the electricity equation. But they cannot be relied on exclusively to meet the need for energy.

If we generate more electricity, are transmission lines still needed?

Electric generation facilities cannot always be built where electricity is needed. Therefore, transmission lines will always be needed to deliver the electricity from where it’s produced to where it’s needed, connecting generating units to distribution lines.

If we conserve energy will we still need additional transmission lines?

Building a new line provides certain, quantifiable relief to solve Wisconsin’s reliability problem. Energy conservation is a worthwhile endeavor, but the net impact on energy consumption is subject to a high degree of uncertainty.

Energy conservation will continue to play and important role in our energy future. But, energy conservation cannot reliably deliver the relief that is needed now to keep the lights on. First, to get the same relief provided by the new line, energy conservation would require millions of consumers to make the right decisions about energy use and capital investments every day. Secondly, energy conservation and efficient improvements tend to have a bounce-back effect. That is, when steps are taken to reduce energy consumption, the economic savings are often used to expand businesses or homes or to add additional electrical equipment. While this is good for economic efficiency, it is very difficult to estimate the net impact on electricity usage. It is not unusual for total consumption at an industrial facility to increase over time because the energy use associated with increased production exceeds the reductions gained from energy.

Electric and Magnetic Fields

What about EMF?

Wherever you find electricity, you’ll also find electric and magnetic fields. You can’t see them, but EMF surrounds you in your home, school, workplace, and on the streets of your city or town. During your daily activities, you are continually exposed to varying levels of EMF. These fields are so weak you can’t feel them. But during laboratory experiments, these currents appear to cause a variety of small, short-term changes in cells by a yet unknown mechanism. Concern focuses on whether these short-term changes can have effects on human health. Most researchers believe that if there is a risk of adverse health effects from EMF it is probably low, but more research is needed, especially on the potential effects.

Electricity flows through a line to get from one place to another—this is called a current. As the electricity flows, it creates a magnetic field around the line—this line can be a transmission line, a line that brings power into your home or business, or a line that allows electricity to travel in your home to power your appliances. The magnetic field increases with the current, and is called EMF. EMF is strongest near the electricity flow and reduces as you move away from this current. So a transmission line with a large flow or current produces large EMF right at the line. The good news is that these transmission lines are on tall towers and are constructed away from homes and schools—this helps to reduce the EMF to levels similar to those measured next to some home appliances.

See our electric and magnetic fields page for more detailed information.

Environment

Will herbicides be used for weed and brush control around transmission line facilities?

We will use herbicides in areas where the easement agreements permits its use. In general, we attempt to notify landowners when the use of herbicides is planned.

Does the process of siting and construction transmission lines consider potential impacts on the environment?

State and federal laws regulate all aspects of siting and building transmission lines. When planning to build a transmission line, state law requires the company constructing the line to develop a plan that details information about environmentally sensitive resources on the proposed route and steps to be taken to avoid or minimize adverse impacts on those resources.

How is construction handled in environmentally sensitive areas?

Every practical and reasonable step is taken during the construction of transmission lines to avoid, protect and preserve environmentally sensitive areas. When these cannot be achieved, appropriate mitigation practices are employed.

To help us identify, avoid and protect environmentally sensitive areas along the line route, we’re developing a construction and mitigation plan. The first part, Part A, presents the entire route, construction requirements and generally identifies how we will construct the line when we are working in environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands. Part B is being developed to address construction practices for smaller segments of the line route. Together these plans will help us avoid sensitive areas when practical, protect areas that cannot be avoided and mitigate for impacts of construction.

For more detailed information, visit our environment page.

Real Estate

How are easements acquired?

Once the project is approved and a route is chosen by the appropriate state regulatory agency and the utility has completed engineering, the negotiation process for purchasing the necessary easements begins. The utility must follow the procedures under the relevant state statute, which is designed to protect landowner rights during the easement acquisition process.

You can learn more about our easement acquisition process by visiting the easements and right-of-way page.

Can landowners use the property once the utility builds the transmission line?

Land within the right-of-way may be used for purposes that do not interfere with the operation, maintenance or construction of the line. Some examples of appropriate land use if wire to ground clearances remain acceptable include using the land for cultivation or pasture in farming operations, or for streets, curbs, gutters, underground utilities in areas of potential development. The utility should be contacted before a change in use occurs to assure compliance with safety codes. Some examples of inappropriate land use include the construction of buildings intended for residential occupancy or the planting of tall trees.