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SunZia will transform New Mexico's economy

The largest renewable energy project in America will start right here in New Mexico, and it just received a key approval from the Bureau of Land Management.

The SunZia Transmission and Wind Project will have a massive economic impact in New Mexico. Estimates released last year put the project’s total economic benefits to New Mexico and Arizona at $20.5 billion. The project is expected to create over 2,000 jobs during construction and support over 100 permanent jobs once online.

Through a whole series of obstacles, I fought for this project. It was worth every one of those fights to bring the transformative economic impact of this project to our rural communities.

I’m also particularly proud of the work we put in to engage with local communities, private landholders and stakeholders. Together, we secured strong commitments from SunZia’s developer, Pattern Energy, to deliver major local economic benefits and environmental stewardship investments.

SunZia will generate 3,500 megawatts of wind power in New Mexico. That’s enough to transition more than 3 million homes to clean, renewable energy. Together, the SunZia Transmission and SunZia Wind projects will become the largest renewable energy infrastructure project in U.S. history.

They will put our state on the map as the place to build large-scale renewable generation projects and transmission infrastructure — with all of the jobs and private capital investment that come with them.

As we build out more transmission lines, we need to learn the lessons that this project taught us.

We need to operationalize what Pattern Energy did voluntarily — we need to incentivize community benefit agreements, economic development support and other commitments that benefit local communities along the route of these big projects. I will make sure our communities are a part of the clean energy future.

We also need to make the permitting process move faster. That doesn’t mean greenlighting every project. It just means getting to a “yes” or a “no” in less than a decade — not a decade and a half.

America’s demand for clean, reliable and affordable energy is growing. It will require us to construct many more new transmission lines. Last Congress, we made substantial investments and set new federal policies to support the build out of grid infrastructure.

But we need to go further, faster if we want to meet the full scale of this opportunity. Otherwise, we risk leaving clean energy stranded. At least 2,000 gigawatts of proposed solar, wind and energy storage projects are stuck waiting in queues to connect to transmission, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study last year.

In the coming weeks, I will introduce major new transmission-permitting-reform legislation in the Senate. For now, we have a lot to celebrate in New Mexico: billions in economic impact, thousands of jobs, and one huge step forward in meeting our ambitious and urgent climate goals.