Hitachi Energy and Quanta Services won contracts on May 4 to design and build a 3.5-GW onshore wind energy farm in central New Mexico and a 3-GW, 550-mile transmission line from that state to Arizona to deliver its clean power and more—an estimated $8-billion project that developer Pattern Energy terms “the largest renewables development in the western hemisphere.” 

The 525-kV high voltage direct current line will carry the wind energy from more than 900 turbines planned for the New Mexico project to adjacent western states. Quanta Services and its Blattner unit, acquired last year, will construct the wind farm and transmission complex, which also is set to include 10 substations, multiple O&M facilities and more than 100 miles of related transmission lines. Hitachi Energy will design and supply high voltage equipment and technology. 

The SunZia project "is changing the landscape for renewable energy, and we need to ensure we have the best team in place to help bring it to life,” said Pattern Energy CEO Hunter Armistead. The firm acquired the project from SouthWestern Power in 2022.  

The projects have local and state approvals and expect to gain by May 19 final approval from the federal Bureau of Land Management needed for construction to start, spokesman Matt Dallas told ENR. He would not say how the the wind farm and transmission project costs are split or provide dollar values for the turnkey Quanta Services contracts.

Preconstruction is underway and full construction is set to begin in the fourth quarter, with completion expected in 2025. The transmission line will begin in New Mexico’s Torrance County near the wind project and terminate at the existing Pinal central substation in Pinal County, Ariz., south of Phoenix. “The purpose of the project is to transport up to 4,500 MW of primarily renewable energy from New Mexico to markets in Arizona and California,” BLM said in its project description. 

Pattern was unclear as to how the power would be transmitted to California from the substation.

Hitachi Energy said its patented HVDC Light technology will efficiently transfer and integrate large volumes of wind power between direct and alternating current, in what it said will be the largest voltage source converter installation in the U.S. and one of the country’s longest HVDC connections. 

Key features of the technology include compact converter stations and exceptionally low electrical losses, Hitachi said. Design and engineering has begun for the two converter stations at both ends of the link to convert AC power to DC for transport in overhead lines and back to AC for integration into the Arizona grid, the company said. The stations are set to be in service by the end of 2025 to support final testing and commissioning of the SunZia wind farm in 2026. Hitachi also said it conducted a “system study and comprehensive interconnection and system impact analysis” to measure grid impacts of the new projects.

Project approval has been a long time coming, with development in process for more than a decade. The project was evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act from 2009 to 2015 when a final environmental approval authorizing right-of-way on federal lands was issued. The route was adjusted after concerns were raised by the U.S. Defense Dept. and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, which required a still pending route realignment.

Sen. Martin Heimrich (D-N.M), told an industry conference in March that SunZia moved to a faster federal approval track in 2015, with nine other transmission projects in development also covered under that process. He also recently introduced permit reform legislation that would authorize the U.S. Energy Dept. and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to expedite siting and permit review for qualified high-voltage power lines, and plans to sponsor other bills this year to boost inter-regional transmission planning and cost allocation, and provide a federal investment tax credit worth 30% of capital investment for a long-distance power line project. 

“There is deep engineering capacity in the oil and gas sector, and we need to find ways for that to match up to technologies that are expanding now,” Heinrich said in early May. The SunZia project is expected to create more than 2,000 job and have a $20.5 billion economic impact in the region.

Quanta’s win of the project also also is set to boost its bottom line, with Credit Suisse sector analyst Jamie Cook noting in a May 4 investor note that it will be included in the firm’s renewables project roster for the second and third quarters, and will “significantly grow backlog throughout the year from already record levels.” 

The win “highlights the firm’s unique ability to provide comprehensive energy transition infrastructure solutions that combine high voltage transmission and renewable generation solution, unmatched in the industry.” she said. “Quanta sees 25 projects today where it can provide a renewables interconnection approach similar to SunZia. We think this highlights the strong secular growth opportunities for the firm that help provide it with the ability to grow earnings per share by double digits on a multi-year basis.”