Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

SunZia wind energy transmission arizona new mexico
The massive new SunZia wind energy transmission line is closing in on the finish line, ESG or not (image courtesy of Pattern Energy Group).

Clean Power

Massive Texas-Sized Wind Energy Transmission Project To (Finally) Link NM, AZ

The massive new SunZia wind energy transmission line is closing in on the finish line, ESG or not.

It’s been 16 long years, but the dream of harvesting 3,500 megawatts of zero emission wind energy in New Mexico and shipping it off to points west has finally begun to inch closer to reality, further sealing the fate of fossil fuels in the US. The new SunZia SouthWest Transmission Project passed a key milestone with final approval from the US Department of the Interior last week, putting it one step closer to the finish line despite anti-ESG rumblings from the Arizona state legislature.

The SunZia Wind Energy Saga Begins

The $2 billion SunZia transmission project first bubbled up all the way back in 2006, when the firm SouthWestern Power Group formulated a strategy for shipping renewable energy from New Mexico to feed the growing demand in Arizona and California.

In 2008, SouthWestern announced a partnership to develop the transmission project, consisting of two twin 500-kilovolt lines cutting across 520 miles of federal, state, and private lands, from central New Mexico to central Arizona. The wind energy angle also began to take shape, with Energy Capital Partners, Shell WindEnergy Inc., and the Arizona utilities Salt River Project and Tucson Electric Power as partners.

CleanTechnica first caught wind of the project 2014, when it overcame an obstacle in the form of the Defense Department’s White Sands missile range, which lay along its route in New Mexico.

“[T]he Defense Department has come up with a solution: go under,” we observed. “The idea, according to a note from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, is to bury three sections of the line that would otherwise have adverse impacts on the operation of the range.”

Apparently that didn’t satisfy the Arizona Public Service Commission. In 2018 it reportedly brought the project to a screeching halt. Two years later, the picture seemed to be improving. In 2020 the Albuquerque Journal reported that SunZia offered to shift the route and avoid the missile range altogether. By 2022 the transmission line was back on track with a new stakeholder on board, the renewable energy developer Pattern Energy Group.

More Wind Energy For The USA

The Department of Interior approval marks the next major milestone. On May 18, the agency announced that its Bureau of Land Management posted a final Record of Decision in the Federal Register.

Though the transmission line is source-agnostic, wind energy features prominently in the project. Overall, BLM anticipates that SunZia will shunt 4,500 megawatts from New Mexico to Arizona and California, with more than 3,500 megawatts of that coming from the related SunZia Wind Project in New Mexico.

“This project represents another milestone in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to accelerate transmission buildout to lower consumers’ energy costs, prevent power outages in the face of extreme weather, create good-paying union jobs, and make progress towards achieving President Biden’s goal of a 100% clean electricity grid by 2035,” the BLM enthused.

Pattern, of course, was delighted, and it is not wasting any time. Construction is anticipated to begin in a matter of weeks.

“This is a historic day for the advancement of America’s clean energy goals as SunZia receives its major federal routing permit, clearing the way to bring online enough renewable power for 3 million Americans,” said Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy in a press release. “More than 2,000 workers will now roll up their sleeves and get to work on America’s largest clean energy infrastructure project, which we look forward to completing in 2026.”

Another Loss For The Clean Power Haters, Part 1

Aside from helping to save the planet from catastrophic climate change, the SunZia wind energy projects are expected to yield solid economic benefits for Arizona and New Mexico.

Pattern Energy cites the research firm Energy, Economic & Environment Consultants, which determined that ratepayers will be on the hook for exactly no added costs from the two projects. EEEC also estimates that the two projects will generate $20.5 billion dollars in economic benefits overall, including more than $8 billion of direct capital investment. They also expect $1.3 billion in fiscal benefits for governments, communities, and schools through various taxes and other payments.

That’s a ringing endorsement for the ESG guidelines adopted by The New Mexico State Investment Council in 2021, in its capacity as the oversight agency for the State Investment Office. ESG refers to environmental, social, and governance corporate and investment principles that are intended to manage risk and promote long term financial viability in the context of climate change and other 21st-century challenges, which puts renewable energy investing in the spotlight.

In its official statement adopting ESG guidelines, the Council noted that it “has a long-term investment horizon and recognizes that the successful management of the Funds is linked to global economic growth.”

“Consistent with its fiduciary responsibilities, the [State Investment Office] seeks to invest in entities that strive for long-term sustainability in their operations,” the Council added. “As such, in investing and managing the assets of the Funds, the SIO will consider ESG factors which can present material business risks or opportunities.”

Proposed legislation that shifts oil and gas regulation in New Mexico from a protectionist model to an environmental conservation model could also help keep the investor dollars flowing into renewable energy projects.

In Arizona, proposed anti-ESG legislation is placing policy makers in a more fraught position, but some are pushing back.

“In Arizona, treasurers in 14 of its 15 counties wrote an open letter to the legislature begging lawmakers not to pass two bills that they said would “politicize our government procurement process at the cost of our state economy and the Arizona taxpayer,” Bloomberg reported in March.

Another Loss For The Clean Power Haters, Part Infinity

Proposed anti-ESG legislation or not, it looks like Arizona is getting many megawatts of wind energy to share around with California thanks to the SunZia project, helping to hasten the exit of fossil fuels from the US power generation profile.

Arizona is also set to play a key role in shepherding fossil fuels out of the market for industrial process heat. Last week, Arizona State University announced that the US Department of Energy has tapped it to lead the new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute as part of a sprawling public-private decarbonization effort called Electrified Processes for Industry Without Carbon, or EPIXC or short.

With ASU in the lead, EPIXC has enlisted national laboratories and prominent academic institutions across the country to kick fossil fuels out of iron and steel, chemicals, petroleum, food and beverage, forest products, and cement, among other industries.

Somewhat ironically, the list of partner institutions includes several located in states where public officials have been front and center in the anti-ESG effort, most notably Texas.

To ice the cake of irony, in 2021 Texas became the first state to enact anti-ESG legislation, even though its wind energy industry has been the nation’s renewable energy pacesetter for years. Now the state is represented at EPIXC by the University of Texas at Austin, helping to spread the decarbonization movement far, wide, and fast. Go figure.

No more Trainwreck Twitter. Find me on Spoutible: @TinaMCasey or LinkedIn @TinaMCasey or Mastodon @Casey or Post:  @tinamcasey

Image: New SunZia wind energy transmission line route courtesy of Patten Energy Group.

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


You May Also Like


This sleek 60-foot yacht from OceansLab will put fuel cells to the test under extreme racing conditions.

Air Quality

Climate change has suddenly become much more real for many Americans as smoke from Canadian wildfires blankets the country.


Indiana has been drifting around in the solar power doldrums, but it is poised to lead the transtition to agrivoltaics throughout the US agricultural...

Clean Power

NREL-Managed Events Give Students the Opportunity To Advance Water Power, Wind Energy, and Their Careers

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.