SunZia grid project, a new pathway for renewable energy, wins Arizona nod

The Arizona Corporation Commission has approved an application of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project for major new high voltage transmission infrastructure originating in eastern New Mexico and ending in Pinal County, Arizona, said SunZia in a Feb. 8 statement.

The Certificate of Environmental Compatibility (CEC) permit issued by the Arizona regulating authority represents the first merchant transmission project approved in the state’s 104-year history.

“SunZia is receiving numerous inquiries from renewable energy development firms concerning interest in both interconnection and transmission service for proposed generation projects in Arizona and New Mexico,” said Tom Wray, SunZia Project Manager. “SunZia is responding to those inquires in accordance with the terms and conditions of its 2011 Order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”

Commissioners and ACC staff noted throughout the two-day meeting that SunZia is a win-win for Arizona because the economic benefits of privately-financed merchant projects come without the risks that rate-paying customers must bear with utility-backed projects.

“We are optimistic about the jobs and economic development activities that will inevitably result from the construction activity of the transmission project itself, as well as from future electric generation facilities,” said Wray. “This project will directly benefit economically-depressed areas in rural Arizona and New Mexico.”

Final permitting efforts for SunZia now turn to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and right-of-way acquisition in both states.

SunZia Southwest Transmission Project is a high-voltage transmission facility that will enable the delivery of electricity, including renewable energy, to customers in the Southwest, while greatly improving the reliability of the existing electrical grid. The system will span 515 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 4,500 MW of new capacity. Once final approvals have been obtained and rights-of-way acquired, construction is scheduled to begin in 2018, with operation of the first 500-kV transmission line in 2021. 

MMR Group is leading the permitting and development effort of the SunZia project through its wholly owned Phoenix-based subsidiary SouthWestern Power Group (SWPG). MMR is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.