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After the presentation, the conference will be opened to analysts for questions and answers. In conjunction with this call, Wisconsin Energy has posted on its website a package of detailed financial information at www.wisconsinenergy.com. A replay of our remarks will be available approximately two hours after the conclusion of this call.And now, I would like to introduce Mr. Gale Klappa, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Wisconsin Energy Corporation. Gale Klappa Thank you, Colleen. Good afternoon, everyone and thank you for joining us as we review the company’s 2011 third quarter results. Let me begin, as always, by introducing the members of the Wisconsin Energy management team who are here with me today. We have Allen Leverett, President and CEO of We Generation; Rick Kuester, our Chief Financial Officer; Jim Fleming, General Counsel; Pat Keyes, our Treasurer and Steve Dickson, of the Controls. Rick will review our financial results in detail in just a moment. But as you saw from our news release this morning, we reported earnings from continuing operations of $1.69 a share for the first nine months of this year. That compares with earnings of $1.39 a share from continuing operations for the first nine months of 2010. For this year’s third quarter, our earnings from continuing operations came in at $0.55 a share, up from $0.47 a share in the third quarter a year ago. Now, compared to our forecast, two factors influenced our positive results in the latest quarter. The first was weather. The Midwest recorded warm temperatures and high humidity this summer which led to strong demand for air conditioning. It literally was hot time in the summer in the city during much of July and August. In fact, the peak demand on our system rose to within 2.5% of our all-time record one hour demand. We also saw slightly stronger growth across the commercial sector of the region.
When we compare our numbers to the prior year third quarter, we realized higher earnings from our Power the Future assets driven by our investment in the second expansion unit at Oak Creek. We also benefited from booking higher allowance per funds used during construction at Wisconsin Electric as we continued to invest in utility projects that have been approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. Overall, we are pleased with our third quarter and our year-to-date performance.Now, I’d like to focus for a few minutes on the economy across our service area. After a nearly double-digit increase and rebound in 2010, electric sales to our large commercial and industrial customers rose by a little less than 1% in the first three quarters of 2011. When we take a closer look inside the numbers, we see that the demand destruction from five large plant closings during the great recession is now being largely offset by modest growth in recovery and other sectors of the region’s economy. For example, we are seeing strength in iron ore mining, in specialty steel, and metal fabrication, paper and printing and in the production of industrial machinery. And from talking with our largest customers, we are cautiously optimistic that the recovery will continue. Next, I’d like to update you on the three significant construction projects we have underway, a 50-megawatt biomass plant at Northern Wisconsin, The Glacier Wind Park, Northeast of Madison, and the Air Quality Control upgrade of the original Oak Creek units. You may recall last quarter we announced that construction was underway on a 50-megawatt cogeneration plant to be fueled with biomass at a paper mill owned by Domtar Corporation in Northern Wisconsin. Good progress has been made on critical underground work and on the foundation for the boiler. On August 25, 1,700 cubic yards of concrete was continuously delivered on port for the foundation. Of course, the biomass plant will help us diversify our renewable energy portfolio. We will be able to dispatch the unit and the efficient technology that will be used to produce steam will clearly benefit the existing paper mill. Our investment in the biomass plant is expected to total between $245 million and $255 million excluding allowance for funds used during construction. We are on schedule and on budget to meet a completion date by the end of 2013.
The other large renewable project in our pipeline, of course, is the Glacier Hills Wind Park, a 162 megawatt energy center located on more than 15,000 acres of rolling farmland about 45 miles northeast of Madison. Ironically, higher than normal winds in late spring and early summer slowed our construction, but we are on track now and making excellent progress. As of yesterday, 88 of the 90 wind turbines planned for the site had been erected and approximately half of the turbines are already producing power for the grid. We are scheduled to complete the project on time and on budget by the end of this year.Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com