Cascabel Working Group
A grassroots organization concerned with the cultural and ecological integrity of the lower/middle San Pedro Valley

Who owns the SunZia project?

How is SunZia related to the Bowie gas-fired generating station?

How wide of a right of way is the Project requesting?

What did I hear about a mile wide corridor?

Could expansion happen in the SunZia corridor?

What kinds of permitting must the SunZia project obtain to move forward?

The SunZia Project is owned by:
  • 13% - Salt River Project (SRP)
  • 1% - Tristate Transmission and Generation Association (TSGT)
  • 86% - SunZia, LLC (originally incorporated in Delaware), comprised of
    • 1% - Tucson Electric Power (TEP)
    • 80% - Southwestern Power Group (SWPG)
    • 5% - Royal Dutch Shell Wind Energy (SWE)
At one point there was a 40% interest held by Energy Capital Partners(ECP), a private equity firm that invests in energy projects. But ECP has, perhaps wisely, since backed out of the project.

Note that 80% of the project is owned by Southwestern Power Group (SWPG). SWPG was originally started by Tom Wray (the current SunZia project manager) in 1999. Later in 2001 SWPG was taken in as a subsidiary of MMR Group of Baton Rouge. It is MMR who is now doing the bulk of SunZia's funding.

Role of the Bowie Plant

In the SunZia FERC filing, footnote 30, page 29 says
"SWPG is developing one affiliated generation unit within the area to be served by the Project"
Looking of SWPG's webpage the project that is being referred to here is the Bowie natural gas electric plant. SWPG has a 40% stake in SunZia. There has been speculation that the SunZia project is part and parcel of the Bowie gas based electric plant. Although Tom Wray stated at the April 29, 2010 Tucson scoping meeting that SunZia and the Bowie plant are unrelated, please read the in-depth report from Mick Meader on our Reports link, which shows the relationship. Mr. Wray did say that wind power works well with gas plants as gas plants can be easily fired up and down to blend with the varying energy produced by wind. (Please also see Mick Meader's report on wind power at the same link.) So if SunZia comes through the area, it will definitely connect to the Bowie plant...if the Bowie plant comes online. Cochise County Supervisor, Richard Searle, told us that there are presently transmission lines available that could serve Bowie without SunZia's presence. We did not learn the details of the existing (non-SunZia) transmission capacity and projected output of Bowie. He also said that Bowie is currently on the shelf because of the bad economy and less than predicted demand for power.

The Right of Way Width

In the presentation made by Tom Wray at the Cascabel Community Center, a slide showed that a single 500KV line requires a 200 foot right of way. Since the Project intends to build 2) parallel lines, they require 400 feet. But they've actually requested "up to" 1000 feet. Why? They told us that in certain circumstances, namely, when the new line comes close to, or runs parallel with an existing line, extra distance is required---how much, they did not know for certain. When pressed to find out why they need 2.5 times(!) the 400 feet, no specific answer was given other than to account for all possible scenarios.

Here is an interesting quote from SunZia consultant Jim Matterer taken from an article in El Defensor Cheiftain:
"Eventually there will be two lines, not necessarily next to each other — and they may or may not go the same route."
What does that imply about the right of way?

The Mile(!) Wide Study Corridor

In the FERC filing, it was stated
"A right-of-way of up to 1,000 feet in width is required to construct, operate and maintain the Project. However, in order to accommodate future expansion, the Project's EIS study corridor is one mile wide. The wider study corridor will significantly reduce the environmental obstacles to future transmission expansion along the Project's path by considering environmental resources any such expansion would be likely to affect."
The Possibility of Expansion is Real

If the SunZia project should establish a corridor, it is very likely that this same corridor would be reused, if not by SunZia, by other companies wanting to blaze their projects through the area. The 2005 energy policy act doesnt show a lot of designated routes through the SW, and if SunZia has one established, it will in all likelihood get used.

Required Permits

This picture is a slide taken from the BLM's rescoping meeting in Tucson this April 29th, 2010. It shows all of the various organizations which require that a permit be obtained for the Project.