US approves expansive Southwest renewable energy project, involving Arizona
May 21, 2023, 6:30 AM
PHOENIX — The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Thursday its decision to greenlight a 520-mile, multibillion-dollar transmission line to transport renewable energy from New Mexico to Arizona and California.
The proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Project involves two 500-kilovolt transmission lines across federal, state and private lands.
It traverses Graham, Greenlee, Cochise, Pinal and Pima counties in Arizona and Lincoln, Socorro, Sierra, Luna, Grant, Hidalgo, Valencia and Torrance counties in New Mexico to provide 4,500 megawatts of primarily wind-generated electricity.
It will be the country’s largest clean energy infrastructure project to date, according to Pattern Energy Group LP.
“Through robust engagement with states, cities and Tribes, we are proud of the part we play in the all-of-government efforts to diversify the nation’s renewable energy portfolio while at the same time combatting climate change and investing in communities,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis said in a press release.
The project seeks to create union jobs, prevent power outages amidst extreme weather and strive toward the Biden Administration’s 100% clean electricity grid by 2035 goal, according to the Department of the Interior.
It falls under the Investing in America agenda, for which private companies have pledged $470 billion in manufacturing and energy investments, the Administration said in a press release.
The SunZia transmission project in New Mexico has been more than a decade in the making.
It was evaluated through the National Environmental Policy Act from 2009 to 2015.
The U.S. Defense Department and others initially raised concerns about the path of the high-voltage lines, prompting the developer to submit a new application in 2021 to modify the route.
One of the changes included adding a substation (SunZia West) on private land in Arizona.
The Bureau of Land Management completed its review of the project in less than two years, and Thursday’s announcement was the next step toward breaking ground.
Pattern Energy announced that construction will commence this summer, and 2026 is the target for commercial operations.
The company signed agreements this month with Shell Energy and the University of California for a portion of the electricity once deliverable.
“We are committed to harnessing New Mexico’s wind to generate clean power for three million Americans and continuing to have conversations with interested customers throughout the western region,” Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy, said in a press release.
Land managers also are reviewing two other major transmission projects that would funnel electricity generated from renewable sources in remote spots to large western markets. One would run through seven counties from Las Vegas to Reno, Nevada, and the other would stretch between central Utah and east-central Nevada.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.