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Power line from N.M. to Southern Arizona wins final US approval

Federal regulators have granted final approval for a new transmission line that will connect a large wind farm in New Mexico to the Arizona power grid via the Lower San Pedro River Valley east of Tucson.

The approval from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management paves the way for Pattern Energy Group to break ground on the 550-mile Southwest Power Transmission Project. The project will be powered by a 3,500 megawatt wind energy project that the company plans to build. Three counties in New Mexico.

Together, the two projects will total $8 billion, making them the largest renewable energy infrastructure investment in U.S. history, according to the San Francisco-based renewable energy giant. The wind farm will be the largest in the Western Hemisphere and has enough capacity to power more than one million people.

Pattern officials have previously said they hope to complete both the towering string of wind turbines and the transmission line by the end of 2025.

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The Biden administration has touted the project as “another milestone” in its efforts to reduce electricity costs for consumers, boost jobs and achieve a 100% clean energy grid by 2035. there is

“The Department of the Interior is committed to expanding clean energy development to address climate change, enhance U.S. energy security, and provide high-paying union jobs,” said the Department of Lands and Minerals Administration. Assistant Chief of Staff Laura Daniel Davis said. A written statement announcing SunZia’s final approval.

Several national environmental groups have taken a stand in favor of the transmission project, but it still faces opposition from a small all-volunteer conservation group in the Lower San Pedro River Basin. Local activists want the lines to be built elsewhere, using established transmission routes.

“We are talking about 53 miles, the most remote and ecologically sensitive part of the last remaining pristine river ecosystem in southern Arizona,” says Mammoth. said Peter Els, one of the grassroots activists who lives along the nearby San Pedro River. “This shows the lack of respect for local conservation efforts by both the White House and the environmental groups that sit on the sidelines or, worse, promote this inadequate plan. There is.”

Arizona’s power regulator withdrew its approval of SunZia in November, but Else is appealing that decision in Maricopa Superior Court.

Arizona’s approximately 320-mile route has about 780 towers, some of which reach heights of 65 feet. For each structure he will be fed two 500 kilovolt power lines. One owned by Pattern, Inc. and owned to transport wind energy to markets in Arizona and California, and another separately owned to transmit other renewable electricity primarily generated locally. is expected.

The line enters Arizona in southern Greenlee County, passes through the countryside north of Bowie and Wilcox, then turns southwest toward the San Pedro River.

The approved transmission corridor crosses the river about 22 kilometers north of Benson and ascends a sparsely populated and biologically rich valley on the eastern slopes of the Rincon Mountains en route to San Manuel and Oracle.

SunZia will connect to the grid via a yet-to-be-built substation just east of Red Rock in Pinal County.

Despite the opposition, power lines through the lower San Pedro Valley are edging closer to reality.

Henry Breen

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