U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced a key development in reaching common ground on the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project in New Mexico.
In response to a letter Senator Heinrich sent to Undersecretary Frank Kendall in September, the Department of Defense (DoD) has agreed to commission a study by M.I.T. Lincoln Laboratory to look at concerns raised by White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) and examine potential changes to test protocols that would allow the DoD to continue its missions in the presence of the new transmission line.
"Lincoln Laboratory has a long history of creating innovative solutions to complex problems involving our nation's radar systems and air- and missile-defense technology. I commend the DoD for pursuing this pragmatic approach to identify measures that would allow for both the missions at WSMR to continue and for the construction of the SunZia transmission line," said Senator Heinrich.
The SunZia transmission line will help deliver wind and solar energy generated in New Mexico to the major western energy demand centers. Without access to those markets, New Mexico's abundant renewable energy resources will remain isolated and largely untapped.
Senator Heinrich has long supported both the SunZia transmission project and White Sands Missile Range. He said, "I have consistently fought to support the state-of-the-art military training, research and development, and testing that occurs in New Mexico, and I will continue to do so. But it is also important to find common ground that does not preclude one national priority over the other when both priorities can be realized, especially when it means so many jobs for New Mexicans."
SunZia has numerous supporters in New Mexico, including many local governments such as Luna, Hidalgo, Grant, Sierra, Torrance and Lincoln counties and the city of Deming, who stand to gain jobs from both construction of transmission lines and renewable energy generation projects. SunZia's private investors have shown a willingness and ability to invest $1.2 billion into the state economies of New Mexico and Arizona.
"This isn't just about SunZia. This is about diversifying New Mexico's economy, lessening our dependence on federal dollars, and charting a course for a more prosperous future," said Senator Heinrich.
In August, Senator Heinrich also sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell outlining the deliberate, transparent, and comprehensive siting process involved in the SunZia energy transmission project in New Mexico, and emphasizing that the successful development of transmission projects like SunZia are vital to our economy and our clean energy future.