The planned SunZia Southwest Transmission Project consists of approximately 515 miles of two single-circuit 500 kV transmission lines. SunZia is designed to connect and deliver electricity generated in Arizona and New Mexico to population centers in the Desert Southwest.
The electricity distributed by SunZia will help meet the nation's demand for renewable energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels for power production.
During January 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved SunZia's application for right-of-way across federal property. Visit the BLM's website to access the Record of Decision and other documents related to SunZia's Environmental Impact Statement.
The ‘Preferred Alternative’ identified by the BLM in its Record of Decision is 515 miles in length and is comprised of 185 miles of federal land, 220 miles of state trust land and 110 miles of private land in Arizona and New Mexico. View maps.
Right-of-way corridors for both lines may be up to 1,000 feet, depending on terrain conditions. The typical right-of-way width is 200 feet per 500 kV circuit.
Use of private property will be acquired through fee purchase and easements.
Typical Characteristics of 500 kV Transmission Lines
Lattice steel towers (see below for images of typical tower structure drawings)
Towers will be approximately 135 feet in height. Tower heights will vary depending on terrain.
The distance between towers will be approximately 1,400 feet. This separation will vary depending on route elevation and terrain.
Access to line and tower locations will make maximum use of exisiting roadways. New roads, mainly for construction use, will be needed.
The project may utilize aerial construction techniques to minimize ground disturbance, where necessary.
Typical Tower Designs
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.
Configuration number 2 will depend on how much power transfer capacity is in demand by the energy market in the Desert Southwest. In addition, the project’s construction will likely occur in phases (e.g.: line number 1 being built prior to line number 2) and segments (e.g.: portions between substations may be built and energized before subsequent segments).
An Economic Impact Assessment was jointly prepared by:
Economic and Business Research Center Arrowhead Center, Inc.
Eller College of Management New Mexico State University
The University of Arizona Las Cruces, New Mexico
Summary of Economic Impacts to Arizona & New Mexico
6,200 jobs during a four-year construction period to build SunZia's transmission lines and substations
Over 36,700 jobs during a 2-year construction period for renewable generation projects
Up to 600 permanent jobs from transmission and generation operations
Summary of Economic Impacts to Arizona
Over $145 million in estimated wages and salaries (including benefits) during construction of SunZia
Over $25 million in state and local taxes during construction of SunZia
Over $5 million per year in wages and salaries during operation
Summary of Economic Impacts to New Mexico
Over $275 million in estimated wages and salaries (including benefits) during construction of SunZia
Over $65 million in state and local taxes during construction of SunZia
Over $2 million per year in wages and salaries during operation
Learn more about the economic impacts to the counties that were studied in the Economic Impact Assessment.
Download the Economic Impact Assessment prepared by the University of Arizona and New Mexico State University:
Tom Wray – Project Manager
As Project Manager for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, Mr. Wray is responsible for the overall coordination and completion of all required development. Click here for more information on the development of the SunZia Project.
Mr. Wray has forty years' experience in the domestic electric power industry, focusing on EHV transmission and large power generation project development. He is considered an expert in the siting, development and regulatory approvals of greenfield generation and transmission projects.
His previous positions include founding partner in SouthWestern Power Group; founding partner of Groves, Wray and Associates; numerous positions over a seventeen year career with Public Service Company of New Mexico; and past membership in the New Mexico State Senate. He was the author of the country's first legislative initiative authorizing customer choice, open access and retail competition in the electric utility industry.
Mr. Wray holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana State University, and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado and business administration from the University of New Mexico.
Cindy Freeman – Assistant Project Manager
As Assistant Project Manager, Mrs. Freeman's primary responsibility is to aid the management and completion of all development activities for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. She also provides representation for the Project Manager in numerous important forums.
Mrs. Freeman acts as Secretary to the Development Committee that is comprised of the project’s sponsors.
Mrs. Freeman received a B.A. from the University of Arizona.
Mark Etherton – Engineering Manager
Mr. Etherton is the Assistant Project Manager and Engineering Manager for the development of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project.
Mr. Etherton is the Director of the PDS Business Unit of Power Engineers, Inc. He has twenty-eight years of electric utility experience with responsibilities ranging from system planning and analysis, protective relaying, project management, substation design and communications systems, as well as approximately nine years in utility supervision and management. Mr. Etherton has been actively involved with the regional transmission planning organizations, including: WestConnect; Southwest Area Transmission Subregional Planning Group and its various subcommittees; independent power producers and the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Mr. Etherton achieved a B.S. in Electrical Engineering (with an emphasis in Power Systems) from New Mexico State University. He has been a Registered Professional Engineer in Arizona since February 1990.
David Getts - General Manager of SouthWestern Power Group
Mr. Getts joined SouthWestern Power Group in 2001 and is responsible for the overall business and project development efforts of the company which includes the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project.
Prior to joining SWPG, Mr. Getts was a banker for 15 years financing infrastructure projects in Europe and the US, with an emphasis on the power generation industry. He has financed over 20 projects in the power generation, transportation and metals industries. He has arranged over $4.0 billion of project finance debt and over $750 million of private equity finance related to infrastructure projects.
Prior to his banking career, Mr. Getts was an engineer in the petrochemical industry in Europe and the Middle East for 7 years.
Gary Crane - Environmental Manager
Dr. Crane is the Environmental Manager for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project and is responsible for environmental permitting activities as defined by local, state, and federal agencies.
Dr. Crane has extensive experience negotiating and serving as a liaison with regulatory agencies, permitting, compliance and environmental law. He has technical expertise in computer modeling, statistical analysis, technical writing and expert testimony.
Dr. Crane's previous positions included Vice President of Environmental Engineering for Ogden Energy Group, Inc.; Project Manager for Parson Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc.; Scientific Consultant and Atmospheric Scientist for Goddard Institute of Space Studies; Environmental Consulting Engineer for United Engineers and Constructors, Inc.; and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Physics for City University of New York.
Martin Bailey – Real Property Manager
Mr. Bailey the Real Property Manager for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project and is responsible for all real property activities.
Mr. Bailey has over 20 years of experience in real estate and property management and the development of real estate assets. He served as a director for several Native American councils and organizations promoting resource management and economic development.
His previous positions include Director of Real Estate Services for the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe; Coordinator and Land Use Specialist for the Colorado River Indian Tribes; and Senior Appraiser and Development Officer for Bank of America.
Van Wilgus – General Counsel
Mr. Wilgus serves as the principal general counsel to the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. His responsibilities include providing legal advice and coordinating various attorneys to assist the permitting, siting, business transactions, and federal and state matters, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Mr. Wilgus has over 30 years experience in the energy, utility and independent power industries with a focus on development, regulation, and mergers and acquisitions. He has extensive experience with rural electric utilities and Rocky Mountain area independent power projects.
His previous positions include senior legal positions with EnergyWest, Inc., Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Company and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. He was also senior legal officer, business development vice-president and part owner of Colorado Energy Management (CEM).
Mr. Wilgus received a B.A. from The Colorado College and a J.D. from the University of Wyoming.
The SunZia Southwest Transmission Project is sponsored by the following companies: