The SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, a proposed $2 billion transmission line that would carry wind and solar in New Mexico and Arizona to markets across the West, is one step closer to fruition after receiving key approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).
According to the DOI, the project is one of seven pilot projects that the Obama administration put on a fast track in hopes of boosting renewable energy development mainly across the West. The projects cover a dozen states and span thousands of miles, from Wyoming to Oregon and south to Nevada, and from central New Mexico to southern Arizona.
The project has the potential to enable the addition of 3 GW of electric capacity to the desert Southwest, unlocking access to world-class wind and solar resources that cannot currently access the Western grid, the DOI notes.
‘The SunZia transmission line will finally unlock New Mexico's stranded wind and solar resources and move that energy to market,’ says Sen. Mark Heinrich, D-N.M. ‘This infrastructure investment will not only spur many permanent clean energy jobs in generation, but it will also put thousands of people to work on the construction of this line.’
The U.S. wind power industry stressed the importance of transmission projects, such as SunZia.Â
‘We applaud the administration and members of Congress for working through the difficult process of finding solutions to allow for clean energy delivery without sacrificing other important uses of the land,’ says Rob Gramlich, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association.
‘This type of infrastructure investment in new transmission lines will modernize the U.S. grid and deliver the nation's best renewable energy resources to population centers,’ Gramlich says.
Before it can begin operation, SunZia still must obtain state permits to finalize financing before construction can begin. Reportedly, developers are hoping to have the transmission line operating in 2018.