Arizona vote allows continued development of massive wind project

PROMO 660 x 440 Miscellaneous - Wind Turbine Farm - Chris Sorensen
Published Thursday, November 17, 2022
by Alex Gonzalez

(Arizona News Connection) The Arizona Corporation Commission has unanimously voted development of the massive SunZia Transmission Wind Project can continue.

The commission approved amendments to SunZia's Certificate of Environmental Compatibility, which completes the Arizona permitting process for the 3,000 megawatt wind project.

Adam Stafford, managing senior staff attorney for Western Resource Advocates, said they commend the decision to move forward with the project. Based in central New Mexico, it will provide power to an estimated 2.5 million customers in states Stafford pointed out are already feeling the impacts of climate change. 

"Decarbonization needs to happen, and the science is telling us that we are facing a rapidly closing window to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees," Stafford asserted. "These are the kinds of steps that we need to be taking - adding new clean energy, adding new transmission lines, increase regionalization to try and minimize cost."

This summer, Pattern Energy acquired the SunZia project from Southwestern Power Group. Pattern Energy will use the 550-mile long SunZia Transmission line to deliver power from New Mexico to Arizona. Southwestern Power plans to develop a second, parallel transmission line, called El Rio Sol.

Stafford said together, they will transmit power from the largest wind project in the Western Hemisphere. 

According to U.S. Census data, Arizona is one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S.

Stafford emphasized while Arizona has focused mostly on solar energy, which is part of the clean-energy puzzle, other forms should not be overlooked. According to Western Resource Advocates, the SunZia line will avoid nearly 17 million metric tons of annual CO2 emissions.

"At the hearing, they showed the generation profile of the wind, and it's complementary to the profile of solar generation in Arizona," Stafford stressed. "It comes in, in the evenings, and blows at nighttime when the sun's not shining."

Pattern Energy is expected to begin operations in 2025. Southwestern Power is expected to bring El Rio Sol online by 2031. The projects are privately funded, and are estimated to bring $1 billion in direct economic benefits to governments and communities in Arizona and New Mexico.

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