SunZia signs major anchor tenant for transmission project

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SunZia Transmission LLC,announced the signing of a Letter of Intent on Sept. 6 with First Wind Energy, LLC, as an anchor tenant in the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project for a reservation of up to 1,500 megawatts of transmission capacity from one of its wind energy projects under development in New Mexico.

First Wind is developing high-capacity wind generation projects in central New Mexico.

“This marks yet another major accomplishment in the progress made thus far for the SunZia project,” said Tom Wray, SunZia’s project manager. “Expressed interest for transmission service from renewable generators across SunZia has exceeded the project’s available capacity.”

“Wind is one of New Mexico’s valuable energy resources,” said Kurt Adams, First Wind’s executive vice president and chief development officer. “If SunZia can resolve its siting challenges, First Wind plans to accelerate the development of this project in Central New Mexico.”

The U. S. Bureau of Land Management has led the preparation of an environmental impact statement on the SunZia Project since May 2009. The Final EIS was issued by BLM in June, 2013. The U. S. Department of Defense has objected to the placement of the line within areas used by White Sands Missile Range for training and testing of equipment and personnel, which may delay the issuance of final Record of Decision, which had been expected by October of this year, a culmination of nearly five years of environmental study and examination of the project.

First Wind develops, finances, builds and operates utility-scale renewable energy projects throughout the United States. Based in Boston, First Wind currently operates wind power facilities in the Northeast, the West and Hawaii, with combined capacity of more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) – enough to power about 300,000 U.S. homes each year.

SunZia Southwest Transmission Project is an extra-high-voltage transmission project designed to deliver energy, including renewable energy, to customers in the Southwest, while improving the reliability of the existing high voltage electrical grid. The proposed system will span approximately 500 miles between Arizona and New Mexico. It includes up to two new 500 kV transmission lines and five electrical substations that will provide up to 3,000 megawatts of new capacity. Local, state and federal permits still need to be obtained. Once permitting is completed, final design and engineering, acquisition of rights-of-way, and construction are scheduled to begin in 2014, with initial operation scheduled by 2016.