SunZia construction begins, will bring 3.5 gigawatts of clean energy to Arizona by 2026

Sep 2, 2023, 7:15 AM

sunzia transmission power clean energy...

The SunZia transmission project will bring clean energy from SunZia Wind, a 900-turbine wind project near Corona, New Mexico, to a substation north of Eloy, south of Coolidge and east of Casa Grande in Pinal County. (Pattern Energy)

(Pattern Energy)

PHOENIX — The multi-billion SunZia Transmission project, the largest clean-energy infrastructure project in U.S. history, started construction today in New Mexico, kicking off a more than 550-mile project that will bring 3.5 gigawatts of power to central Arizona and beyond.

More than a decade in the making, the SunZia project will funnel renewable energy from central New Mexico to more populated areas in Arizona and California. Developer Pattern Energy says once the lines are complete in 2026, they will be capable of transporting enough new wind power to serve 3 million people in the West.

The primary source of energy will be from SunZia Wind, a 900-turbine wind project near Corona, New Mexico, that is already under construction. it is the largest wind project in the Western Hemisphere. The transmission line will end at a substation north of Eloy, south of Coolidge and east of Casa Grande in Pinal County.

Together, SunZia Wind and SunZia Transmission are the largest clean energy infrastructure project in U.S. history.

More than a decade in the making

SunZia Transmission was approved by The U.S. Department of the Interior in May.

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a Notice to Proceed Friday. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland joined other elected and government officials to initiate the project’s groundbreaking at the SunZia East Converter Station in Corona, New Mexico.

In Arizona, there are still concerns about potential ecological damage from SunZia where it will cross the San Pedro River Valley. Critics plan to appeal a recent court decision affirming regulatory approval in that state.

“I disagree with those who believe that poorly planned projects like SunZia should now be used as the pretext for granting the federal government even greater authority to sidestep legitimate state and local concerns over federal powerline siting decisions,” said Peter Else, chair of the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance.

Else is the plaintiff in the active lawsuit seeking to block the line.

Haaland said the Bureau of Land Management consistently sought collaboration to develop the best possible route for the line. She doubled down Friday on the administration’s promise to permit at least 25 gigawatts of onshore renewable energy by 2025. She said New Mexico, her home state, stands to play a big role in production given its supply of sunshine and wind.

Other projects to follow

Other projects in the works include the Southern Spirit transmission line that would link Texas with other grids in the southeastern U.S., the proposed Greenlink West Transmission Project in Nevada, and a set of high-voltage lines that would span from central Utah to east-central Nevada. The RioSol Transmission Line, a 500-kV High Voltage Alternating Current project that will have a capacity of 1,500 MW and will bring additional clean resources is also planned.

Aside from addressing climate issues, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said such projects represent one of this generation’s greatest economic opportunities. He and other officials have pointed to construction jobs and tax revenues for local governments and states.

Pattern Energy, the developer of SunZia, said the projects will create 2,000 jobs, generate over $20 billion in expected economic impact, and increase the reliability of the western grid.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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SunZia construction begins, will bring 3.5 gigawatts of clean energy to Arizona by 2026