SunZia to supply 3,000 MW of clean energy to Arizona and California
They say good things come to those who wait. Clean energy customers in the Southwest are about to put that adage to the test.
After more than 17 years of navigating permits and approvals, Pattern Energy Group has closed $11 billion in non-recourse financing and started full construction of SunZia Transmission and SunZia Wind. The tandem is being billed by the company as the largest clean energy infrastructure project in U.S. history.
SunZia Transmission is a 550-mile ± 525 kV high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line between central New Mexico and south-central Arizona with the capacity to transport 3,000 MW across Western states. SunZia Transmission will deliver power generated by Pattern Energy’s 3,515 MW SunZia Wind facility (the largest wind project in the Western Hemisphere), which is being constructed across Torrance, Lincoln, and San Miguel Counties in New Mexico.
SunZia Wind and Transmission will employ more than 2,000 workers on-site during construction, including heavy equipment operators, electricians, laborers, and others. The EPC Contractor of the transmission line is Quanta Infrastructure Solutions Group and the HVDC supplier is Hitachi Energy. The EPC contractor for the wind project is Blattner Energy, a Quanta-affiliated company. The wind turbines are being supplied by GE Vernova and Vestas.
The project’s financing includes an integrated construction loan and letter of credit facility, two separate term facilities, an operating phase letter of credit facility, a tax equity term loan facility, and a holding company loan facility.
“Our hope is this successful financing of the largest clean energy infrastructure project in American history serves as an example for other ambitious renewable infrastructure initiatives that are needed to accelerate our transition to a carbon-free future,” said Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy in a press release. “We are very grateful to all of our financial partners who are backing SunZia as part of this record-setting project financing. Construction is well underway on this historic project that will deliver clean power with a generation profile that complements abundant solar generation available across the Western United States.”
Construction began on the project in late 2023, after the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior, issued its Notice to Proceed. However, work came to a halt in southwestern Arizona last November, as Native American tribes argued the federal government ignored concerns about how the transmission line may impact religious and cultural sites.
Federal land managers temporarily suspended work on the SunZia transmission project along a 50-mile segment after the Tohono O’odham Nation asked for immediate intervention, saying bulldozers were clearing a stretch of the San Pedro Valley and that one or more historic sites were demolished.
Renewable energy advocates have said SunZia will be a key artery in the Biden administration’s plan for boosting renewables and improving reliability along the nation’s power grids. The line will stretch about 550 miles (885 kilometers) from central New Mexico, transporting electricity from massive wind farms to populated areas as far away as California.
Developer Pattern Energy has billed the SunZia project as an energy infrastructure undertaking bigger than the Hoover Dam. Executives and federal officials gathered in New Mexico in September to officially break ground on the project. SunZia Transmission and Pattern Energy have partnered with the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA) on the development of the transmission line in New Mexico.
This article includes reporting from the Associated Press.