The Path from Zia to Sun

Clean Energy’s 520 Mile Journey

The Energy

Delivering Abundant Carbon-free Energy to the West

The Untapped Potential

Renewable energy resources are often harnessed hundreds of miles from urban areas which are located far from the existing electrical grid. Before these stranded renewable energy resources can be used by residential and business consumers, a delivery system must be in place to transport that energy from its source. SunZia will play an important role in this process by not only transporting wind power from its source in Central New Mexico but also by encouraging the development of other wind and solar farms along its route, all of which will help meet the growing demand for new renewable energy.

4,500 Megawatts & 500,000 Volts

In 2010, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) identified the State of New Mexico as one of the top 10 wind potential states; however, new transmission infrastructure is needed to unleash its wind energy potential. In central New Mexico near Corona where SunZia begins, there is more than 4,500 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity.  Combine that potential with the capacity of two 500 kilovolts (kV) transmission lines, and those MWs can be delivered over 520 miles of the SunZia Project route, to reach Arizona and power markets beyond.

Transmission Structures

Created to Complement the Terrain

Keeping the View Grand and Enchanting

SunZia will traverse approximately 520 miles through New Mexico and Arizona. Where possible, the route will be located near other existing transmission lines. The average height of the towers will be 135 feet and will be constructed with materials that complement its surroundings, minimizing their visibility from a distance.

Disappearing Structures

The wide-open expanse of the Desert Southwest offers views that extend for miles. A best in class infrastructure project like SunZia must be engineered to be as unnoticeable as possible, and this task requires state of the art innovation. The tower’s metal lattice and cables are designed specifically to blend into the landscape.

The SunZia Towers In Detail

Characteristics

  • Lattice steel structures (see typical tower structure drawings below).
  • Structures will typically be 135 feet in height. Tower heights will vary from 100 to 170 feet in height depending on terrain.
  • The distance between structures will be approximately 1,400 feet. This separation will vary depending on route elevation and terrain. On flat ground, structures can be located further apart than in areas where there are hills, steep slopes or significant changes in elevation.
  • Access to the line and structure locations will use existing roadways wherever possible.  New roads that are used only during construction will be restored.
  • SunZia will utilize aerial-only (helicopter) construction techniques to minimize ground disturbance in specific areas.

Configuration Options

  1. Two single-circuit 500 kV AC lines that have an approved rating of 3,000 MW from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council.

2. One single-circuit 500 kV AC line and one single circuit 500 kV DC line with an estimated power transfer capacity of up to 4,500 megawatts. A decision on the final configuration will depend on customer demand.

Tower Designs

The Route

Guided by Environmental Analysis

The Bureau of Land Management

SunZia’s route avoids densely populated areas and, where feasible, will be located near existing transmission lines and roads. SunZia’s final location was determined by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after completing an extensive 6 ½ year Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. The EIS process analyzed impacts to environmental resources. This process took into account any potential impacts on wildlife, water and cultural sites as well as aesthetic and recreational assets.

Learn More About the EIS Process. 

Working with Private Landowners

Engaging and working with landowners is a critical part of our process to determine routing. In addition, our land team also works with the local community to conduct outreach through public open house events and local meetings. Feedback is then provided to the Bureau of Land Management as a part of the Environmental Impact Statement. SunZia’s route avoids populated areas and crosses both private and public lands. SunZia strives to benefit the lives of all who are investing various resources to make this project possible.