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Fed Energy Deal Paves Way for Zia Transmission Line

Original source: Santa Fe New Mexican

Photo credit: wilderness.org

Photo credit: wilderness.org

SunZia Transmission Line Clears Defense Site Hurdle

The 515-mile SunZia transmission line, which would carry wind and solar energy for Western states, has a “very high” probability of finally being built in New Mexico and Arizona, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D.-N.M.) said Monday.

SunZia agreed last spring to bury sections of its transmission line so as not to interfere with training missions at the northern extension of White Sands Missile Range.

This change in the construction plan will increase the project’s cost, which initially was estimated at $1.2B, said Ian Calkins, a spokesman for SunZia. But Calkins said the agreement, keeps alive a project that could mean thousands of construction jobs for New Mexico and Arizona.

The company now awaits an environmental analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on the revised building plan for the transmission line.

SunZia, citing a study by New Mexico State University and the University of Arizona, has projected that the line would create 43K construction jobs (AZBEX update: The study estimated that 25K of the jobs would be in Arizona).

The potential for renewable energy development in the Southwest is tremendous, but two top officials in President Barack Obama’s administration said Monday much work needs to be done to meet the challenges of exporting that power to market.

U.S. Officials Talk Energy in Santa Fe

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz were among dozens of state and tribal officials who met in Santa Fe as part of the administration’s effort to develop recommendations regarding the transmission, storage and distribution of energy.

Jewell and Moniz said one of the biggest challenges has been working across state lines and Native American jurisdictions to site and permit transmission and pipeline projects. They pointed to the $2B SunZia project between New Mexico and Arizona as one example.

Jewell said the U.S. needs a comprehensive plan for energy development. More than a dozen meetings are being held around the country as part of the administration’s energy review. A report focused on infrastructure challenges is expected in January.

One of the focuses of the New Mexico meeting was the federal government’s relationship with tribes, which have vast reserves of coal, other fossil fuels and renewable energy potential. Experts have estimated that solar and wind energy from tribal lands alone could supply a significant percentage of the nation’s annual electricity needs.

Read more at Santa Fe New Mexican: Zia Transmission and Energy Officials in Santa Fe