American Transmission Company operations center at
the ATC headquarters in the City of Pewaukee. The
transmission company controls its power transmission
system covering the entire state from the room.
CITY OF PEWAUKEE - Three American
Transmission Company employees sit behind large desks
with multiple computer monitors, troubleshooting
phoned-in problems to the company’s operations center as
well as keeping their eyes on an expansive grid map
showing what generators are working, where there are
problems and the amount of power being used.
ATC CEO and President Mike Rowe said the
operations center is staffed 24/7 to resolve any problem that
should arise, although the company in recent years has increased
the reliability and stability of its power transmission lines
throughout Wisconsin and into Michigan and Illinois.
Londo explains the American Transmission Company
operations center during a tour of the facility on
American Transmission Company President and CEO Mike
Rowe talks during a tour of the facility in the City
of Pewaukee on Tuesday.
When the company was formed in 2001, Rowe
said the reliability of the transmission lines in
Wisconsin and upper Michigan wasn’t very good, but the
company has continued to invest in upgrades and new
“We were not a top player in the country and
that’s being kind to ourselves,” Rowe said.
ATC was also the first transmission-only,
multistate utility in the country. To create benchmarks for its
success, Rowe said ATC looks to its neighboring states and
others that have similar weather.
From the operations center in the City of
Pewaukee, ATC operators can work with fellow ATC staff in all
five major company locations, including the second operations
center in Cottage Grove.
Since forming, ATC has built 48 new transmission
lines and 60-plus projects have been permitted by the state for
urban and rural areas and across state lines, Rowe said.
The general idea, Rowe said, is that transmission
costs should comprise less than 10 percent of a person’s utility
bill, so if a resident receives a $100 bill, only $10 of that
should be for transporting power. For every $12 that is invested
in a multivalue project, Rowe said, ATC is able to return $33 to
the end user’s pocketbook.
“We look at the future as a variety of futures,”
Rowe said, explaining there are many variables that could
combine to form different scenarios, such as if more coal is
used or less nuclear power is utilized.
boards show weather and other system status items at
the American Transmission Company operations center
on Tuesday. The chart at lower right shows
day-over-day energy usage, with Tuesday's usage
higher than the cooler Monday usage.
A challenge remains anticipating changes
in how utilities generate power. Rowe said ATC is
generally notified with as much advance notice needed to
address the change with an ample amount of time, but the
utilities are fairly quiet on the pending change until
they receive governmental approval. Many of the changes
are centered around the reduction in carbon output. Rowe
said he doesn’t anticipate the changes in Wisconsin
being too dramatic due to the nature of the coal used in
display shows the amount of generated power, usage,
power from wind generation, power frequency and
surplus or deficit of power. The display numbers do
not all appear because of the type of lights used in
the display. The actual generation number was 9654
He said ATC is in a good place right now
and it has predicted needs well, resulting in a stable
environment. If a transmission line should have an
issue, ATC has created 2,000 contingencies that the
computer operator will run through in seconds. The human
worker then reviews the contingencies to make sure the
correct one is selected, said Mike Londo, transmission
reliability administrator for ATC.
“We’re thinking ahead of that next thing to go
wrong so we’re ahead of it,” Londo said.
ATC workers have also come to predict when the
power usage will increase and decrease. Londo said around 10:15
p.m. after the weather is broadcast on TV, the usage goes down.
It decreases again at 10:45 p.m. after the opening monologues on
the evening entertainment shows. During halftime of a Packers
game, usage will spike about 30 to 40 megawatts because people
get up to make snacks and use the bathroom. During a Super Bowl
halftime, the increase is closer to 100 megawatts, he said.