The 550-mile SunZia Southwest Transmission Project renewable energy transmission line will have a substation in Graham County.
With a location slated for three miles north of the Cochise County line and about one mile east of Highway 191, the substation will be a node in a multimillion dollar project to bring renewable energy from central New Mexico to Arizona.
Graham County Manager Dustin Welker said the county anticipates that once the project is up and running, it could spur more solar and renewable energy development in Graham County. The county is also anticipating that once the project is built, SunZia would “likely become one of the Top 5 highest taxpayers in Graham County,” Welker said.
Ian Calkins, the spokesman for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, said electrical generation facilities in Graham County will have the opportunity to “subscribe” to transmission capacity from the project. The substation itself, called the Willow Substation, will be a point of connection to deliver electricity to local utilities.
According to SunZia’s website, the project has been issued a Right-of-Way Grant by the Bureau of Land Management for the portions of the project located on federal land. Applications for rights of way for the portions of the project located on State Trust Land are pending in both Arizona and New Mexico. Acquisitions of land rights from owners of private land within the project route are also in progress.
If things go as planned, construction on the project could begin next year and continue through 2025.
Although the project as a whole is projected to generate more than 2,000 jobs, when asked how many jobs the substation would generate in Graham County, Calkins said that besides security, operations, and maintenance jobs, as well as initial construction jobs, electrical substations don’t typically need full time staff members once construction is complete. However, he said, the substation could create additional construction and operations and management jobs.
“Keep in mind,” Calkins wrote in an email, “the key benefit of the substation is the fact it will enable future energy projects to be built locally and tie into SunZia.”