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Boston-based First Wind Energy LLC, which is developing high-capacity wind generation projects in central New Mexico, has signed a letter of intent to reserve up to 1.5 GW of transmission capacity from the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project.

According to developer SunZia Transmission LLC, its extra-high-voltage transmission project will help enable the delivery of energy, including renewable resources, to customers in the Desert Southwest.

The system will span approximately 500 miles between Arizona and New Mexico. It includes up to two new 500 kV transmission lines and five electrical substations that will provide up to 3 GW of new capacity. Once all permits have been obtained, SunZia says final design and engineering, acquisition of rights-of-way, and construction are scheduled to begin in 2014, with initial operation scheduled by 2016.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has led the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the SunZia project since May 2009. The final EIS was issued by the BLM in June, and SunZia says it expects a record of decision by October. The issuance of this decision will culminate nearly five years of environmental study and examination of the project, the company adds.

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