Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

The mighty winds of New Mexico could soon power homes and businesses in Arizona and California. The Bureau of Land Management has opened a 90-day public comment period seeking input on the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project and the potential environmental impacts associated with proposed amendments. BLM will also hold three virtual public meetings on the amendments to the project.

“We are pleased to give the public an opportunity to provide their input on this project.  We invite all interested parties to attend the virtual public meetings to learn about the project and provide comment,” said BLM New Mexico Acting State Director Melanie Barnes.   

The BLM initially issued a Record of Decision on January 23, 2015 approving SunZia’s request for right-of-way on federal lands managed by the BLM. SunZia executed a fifty-year Right-of-Way Grant Agreement with the BLM on September 1, 2016. SunZia is currently negotiating rights-of-way with the New Mexico State Land Office, Arizona State Land Department and private landowners.

According to SouthWestern Power Group’s (SWPG) Annual Progress Report: 2021 on the transmission project, SunZia will provide additional transmission interconnections and transmission capacity between central New Mexico and central Arizona. By creating access to the interstate power grid across the Desert Southwest, SunZia will enable the development of renewable energy resources, notably wind energy resources. The expected operation date is during 2025.

Pattern Energy is the anchor tenant for the 3,000 MW of transmission capacity for SunZia Transmission. The transmission line is designed to help meet the national growing demand for renewable energy and will accommodate Pattern’s SunZia wind projects.

Pattern’s recently completed its Western Spirit Wind projects – the largest single-phase renewable energy buildout in U.S. history –utilizes New Mexico’s mighty winds to generate more than 1,050 megawatts of electricity. The four wind projects that comprise Western Spirit Wind are located in Guadalupe, Lincoln and Torrance Counties in central New Mexico.

 In 2020, Pattern Energy Group Inc. was acquired by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and taken private through a reverse merger transaction. Pattern has stated they plan over $6 billion in wind energy and related infrastructure projects in New Mexico over the next decade

The comment period on the SunZia transmission lines ends on July 28.  To have your comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement considered for inclusion in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the BLM must receive them by July 28.

The BLM encourages substantive comments that are factual and specific; describe the significance of the impacts and how they affect you, others, places and activities; provide any new information that is relevant to the project (e.g., potential affected resources); and discuss modifications to existing alternatives or suggest other reasonable alternatives with justification.    

The three public meetings will be held via the Zoom virtual platform. The dates and times of the meetings will be announced at least 15 days in advance through local media, newspapers and the BLM website at: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2011785/510. 

Verbal comment can be submitted via a hotline: 1.888.959.2510, electronic comments via the ePlanning site: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2011785/510 , or mail comments to the BLM New Mexico State Office Attention: SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. 

For further information, contact BLM Project Manager Adrian Garcia at 505.954.2199.