University of California Signs Wind-Energy Contract

Local news reports that a renewable energy powerline in New Mexico recently received federal approval. Construction is expected to begin this summer on the SunZia Transmission project, which will provide as much as 3,000 megawatts of electricity generated by wind farms in Lincoln, Torrance, and San Miguel Counties. The wind farm has already signed contracts with its first two customers—including the University of California, according to the Carlsbad Current Argus.

The contract between the university and SunZia entails a 3,500 MW New-Mexico wind project that will deliver the power via a 550-mile transmission line that will soon begin construction. The university’s 85 MW share of the energy is expected to equal the annual energy consumption of UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, and UC Merced combined, according to a University of California news story.

Every UC campus and medical center will use the renewable energy, according to the university news story. The UC Clean Power Program will use a significant percentage of it to make sure that all universities are supplied with clean electricity. Commercial operation of the wind farm is expected to begin in 2026.

“This wind contract represents another milestone achievement for the University of California,” said Associate Vice President of Capital Programs, Energy, and Sustainability David Phillips. “Eight years ago, we signed our first utility-scale contracts for solar, and today, we are adding another important renewable resource to our portfolio—wind. The SunZia project expands the systemwide collaboration needed to support each of our campuses as they complete their plans to transition away from fossil fuels.”

The SunZia Wind project will create the largest clean energy infrastructure project in U.S. history, according to its developer, Pattern Energy. According to the project’s website, it represents an investment of more than $5 billion and will create and deliver renewable energy to meet the growing need in the western portion of the country while maintaining grid reliability.

“We welcome this exciting new relationship with UC Regents on the delivery of New Mexico wind power,” said Pattern Energy CEO Hunter Armistead. “SunZia is providing access to some of the best wind in the world, which has a powerful generation profile with an evening peak that is a perfect complement to daytime solar. We are committed to harnessing New Mexico’s wind to generate clean power for three million Americans and continuing to have conversations with interested customers throughout the western region.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ranked the University of California as the No. 1 higher-education institution in the country with regards to green electricity use. The university has more than 50 MW of on-campus projects and is under contract with two other utility-scale solar projects in California, Five Points (60 MWs) and Giffen Solar Park (20 MWs).

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].