Monday, May 29, 2023
Climate and Energy

Pattern Energy Ready to Tap New Mexico's Wind Potential

SunZia Transmission Waited 16 Years


After over 16 years of jumping regulatory hoops and an investment of more than $8 billion, Pattern Energy, owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, says full construction is expected to start in 2023 on its SunZia Transmission and wind project. Two separate unanimous approvals from the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission, combined with recent approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission, paved the way for construction to finally begin on a 550-mile interstate transmission line project.

Pattern Energy intends to commence construction on the two projects in 2023 and start operations at SunZia Transmission in 2025 and at SunZia Wind in early 2026.

"It's nice to see the project coming to fruition,” Barbara Sultemeier, a local rancher who will host SunZia Wind, said in a press release. "Our community has been anticipating this project and the benefits it will provide for some time, and we are pleased to see the economic impact, not only from the direct investment but also jobs for area workers."

Wind Turbines Billion Dollar Economic Windfall

According to the results of an independent study conducted by research firm Energy, Economic & Environment Consultants LLC., the SunZia development plan will have a $20.5 billion in economic impact for Arizona and New Mexico. When the project is complete, it will be the largest clean energy infrastructure project in U.S. history and will enable more than 2.5 million Americans to access more than 3,000MW of clean, reliable and affordable power.

"This report underscores the transformative power of large-scale clean energy projects like SunZia and New Mexico’s role in helping meet our nation’s goals and energy demands, said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. "I am proud to have supported this project at every stage, and to witness today just how far the investments and positive impacts will reach." Partnered with Pattern Energy is the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA).

Pattern is also developing additional interstate transmission projects, including the advanced-stage 525kV Southern Spirit Transmission project connecting ERCOT in Texas to the Southeast market.

On average, rental payments for the placement of a single wind turbine lease can pay landowners up to $8,000 per year. At this price point, wind farming can quickly become quite valuable, especially for larger locations that can host several hundred wind turbines. A quality, modern wind turbine will generally last for 20 years, although this can be extended to 25 years or longer depending on environmental factors and correct maintenance procedures.

SunZia Wind and Transmission will provide a multitude of economic benefits across New Mexico and Arizona. Direct economic impacts are expected to be $16.2 billion in capital expenditure and operational expenditure, including payments to private landowners. Projected indirect economic benefit such as purchases of goods and services resulting from the expenditures, such as food, lodging, and supplies is $1.9 billion. Subsequent impact of direct & indirect benefits to public service, including police, fire, schools and households is $1.1 billion. Fiscal impacts including payments directly to public entities and taxes are anticipated at $1.3 billion.

Harnessing New Mexico’s vast wind power potential is expected to create more than 2,000 construction jobs during Sun Zia’s peak construction, delivering economic benefits across New Mexico and Arizona. “SunZia is an investment in America’s energy future that will pay strong dividends, including more than $20 billion in expected economic impact, over 2,000 new jobs, and clean power for 3 million Americans,” said Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy.

Sun Zia’s Long Road Through the Approval Maze

The proposed SunZia Wind, located in Lincoln, Torrance and San Miguel Counties, will combine with SunZia Transmission’s two planned 500 kilovolt (kV) transmission lines located across approximately 520 miles of federal, state and private lands between central New Mexico and central Arizona.

“SunZia is a prime example of the type of viable renewable energy and transmission project that our region desperately needs,” said Myra Pancrazio, director of the Estancia Valley Economic Development Association. “We have worked hard for the past 20 years to bring projects like this to the Estancia Valley. SunZia will deliver clean renewable energy, job creation, and economic development. It’s a win-win-win for the entire region.” 

Sun Zia’s transmission portion will dramatically change the energy markets in the southwest. To get to the full construction phase, the privately funded project had to get approvals from 10 federal agencies, five state agencies and nine local authorities, as well as stakeholders at the local, state and national levels. To meet the goals of President Biden’s 100% clean electricity by 2035, policymakers and other private and public sector leaders will need to work on resolving issues a lot faster.

“We’re proud that SunZia is the result of many years of collaboration with communities, local residents, landowners, environmental groups, wildlife organizations and federal agencies. We look forward to starting construction this year and bringing these benefits to fruition,” Hunter said. Pattern said SunZia Wind and SunZia Transmission projects have been developed with a deep commitment to local community engagement and environmental stewardship. A key initiative for SunZia has been following through on an extended engagement with local, regional and national conservation stakeholders.

Pattern believes SunZia Transmission is setting a precedent with a gold standard in environmental mitigation efforts developed hand-in-hand with the environmental community. The company said it has been working hard to establish environmental practices designed to reduce project impacts and study effective habitat restoration strategies in partnership with local and state experts.

To allow construction on the projects to begin on schedule this year, Pattern said it will continue to work with federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as well as local jurisdictions and stakeholders, to finalize remaining approvals.

"New Mexico is proud to be the home of the largest clean energy infrastructure project in U.S. history, and we are eager to realize the economic and environmental benefits this project will provide," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said about the project.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here