Cohocton Wind Watch: First Wind agrees to take 1,500 MW on New Mexico-Arizona power line project
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Friday, September 06, 2013

First Wind agrees to take 1,500 MW on New Mexico-Arizona power line project

Boston-based First Wind has agreed to take up to 1,500 MW of transmission capacity on the proposed 500-kV SunZia power line project slated to run between New Mexico and Arizona, the line's developer said Friday.

First Wind is developing high-capacity wind generation projects in central New Mexico. The $1.5 billion SunZia project will run about 515 miles from eastern New Mexico to central Arizona and is mainly designed to deliver renewable generation to Arizona and California.

SunZia must complete the siting process before the projects can move ahead. "If SunZia can resolve its siting challenges, First Wind plans to accelerate the development of this project in central New Mexico," said Kurt Adams, First Wind's executive vice president and chief development officer.

The US Department of Defense is concerned that the proposed route for the project would interfere with operations at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management issued a final environmental impact statement on the $1.5 billion project in June, and SunZia expects a record of decision to be released by October.

SunZia developers plan to seek permits for the project from regulators in Arizona and New Mexico.

SouthWestern Power Group, a Phoenix-based merchant developer, is spearheading the project. SPG is owned by MMR Group, a construction firm based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Other project partners include: Shell WindEnergy, which is developing wind projects in central New Mexico, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Tucson Electric Power and Salt River Project.

The developers are considering two major options for the project: two 500-kV AC lines with about 3,000 MW capacity or one 500-kV AC line coupled with a 500-kV DC line that would have about 4,500 MW capacity. The line would have three substations in New Mexico and two in Arizona, where renewable developers could interconnect.

The project developers plan to start building SunZia in 2015 and to possibly start operating the line in 2017.
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