SunZia: Letter agreement executed with WAPA involving transmission project

SunZia Southwest Transmission Project on Jan. 29 said that it and the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) have executed a letter agreement that sets forth terms and options for future potential participation by WAPA in the SunZia project.

SunZia noted that in 2015, it entered into an advanced funding agreement with WAPA’s Transmission Infrastructure Program (TIP) for development support and technical assistance.

As noted on SunZia’s website, the project – which consists of two single-circuit, 500-kV transmission lines – is designed to connect and deliver electricity generated in Arizona and New Mexico to population centers in the Desert Southwest.

The total length of the project is 518 miles, and is comprised of 180 miles of federal land, 230 miles of state trust land, and 108 miles of private land in Arizona and New Mexico, according to the site.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in January 2015 approved SunZia’s application for right of way (ROW) across federal property, the site noted.

ROW corridors for both lines may be up to 1,000 feet, depending on terrain conditions, the site noted, adding that the ROW width is 200 feet per 500-kV circuit.

Use of private property will be acquired through fee purchase and easements, according to the site, which also noted that negotiations with private landowners are underway.

Towers will be about 135 feet in height, with tower heights varying depending on terrain, the site noted. The distance between towers will be about 1,400 feet, and that separation will vary depending on route elevation and terrain, the site noted.

The electricity distributed by SunZia will help meet the country’s demand for renewable energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels for power production, according to the site.

Mark Gabriel, administrator and CEO for WAPA, said in SunZia’s statement, “We are excited about the opportunity to provide assistance to the development of critical energy infrastructure in the Desert Southwest that will deliver clean energy resources to growing markets.”

David Getts, general manager for SouthWestern Power Group, said in the statement: “This agreement represents an important next step in project development. We value the opportunity for the potential submittal of an application for construction financing through WAPA’s borrowing authority, which is managed by TIP. The agreement represents an important milestone for SunZia, its principal owners being Southwestern Power Group of Phoenix, [Ariz.,] and parent-owner MMR Group of Baton Rouge, [La].”

SunZia said that Pattern Development is the anchor tenant for transmission service in SunZia’s first 500-kV line, and is the developer of nearby Corona Wind, comprising more than 2,000 MW of new wind energy projects to be served by SunZia.

Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Development, said in the statement, “The possibility of a joint effort between WAPA and SunZia could drive rural economic development and promote the construction and operation of Pattern’s Corona Wind Energy Project in New Mexico.”

SunZia noted that the letter agreement outlines the expected roles, responsibilities, and options for SunZia and WAPA as the parties continue to explore potential financing opportunities, as well as whether and to what extent WAPA might participate in SunZia. The agreement also provides for identification of the potential benefits to both parties that could arise from joint participation in the project, SunZia said.

A SunZia spokesperson on Jan. 29 told TransmissionHub that the agreement is confidential.

“Construction of the first transmission line and substations is planned to begin in mid-2018, with commercial operation in late 2020,” he said, adding that the project’s total transfer capacity is 3,000 MW.

The spokesperson noted that the project, which is being developed jointly by Southwestern Power Group and Pattern Development, is estimated to cost more than $1.5bn.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3060 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.