What is Questa’s vision for the transition to a post-mining community?
We have created several partnerships to transition to the post mining economy. We are looking at several different areas in this transition. We are looking to build on our outdoor recreation and tourist industry. We are also working on bringing new business to the community to replace the 300 jobs that were lost when the mine shut down. We have built a new business park to recruit these potential businesses to move to Questa. We are trying to diversify from one employer who employs most of the community to multiple employers who can employ these members of the community. We are currently partnering with National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC), Chevron, Questa Economic Fund (QEDF) Board on green hydrogen feasibility study and project. This would bring more jobs to Questa as well as economic development. It will also turn another brownfield into a greenfield. Kit Carson Electric, who is our local electricity supplier, is currently at 100-percent daytime solar. This green hydrogen facility would now provide storage capability to supply the KCEC with green energy to supply Questa and the surrounding communities with nighttime green energy. We have engaged legislators, the Governor’s office, and our congressional delegation in this effort. The struggle is that we are a small community competing against several large communities in this effort. Our project is definitely viable and a 100-percent green project. There are not many out there right now like it. We will continue to try and leverage more partnerships in this project.
What are some of the existing assets in your community, like infrastructure and specific skill sets, that can aid in that transition?
We are trying to convert brown fields into green fields as part of the mine reclamation process, our lake in town [Eagle Rock Lake] was rebuilt, and that lake is now one of the busiest lakes in northern New Mexico. Last year we completed a 1.9-million-dollar river restoration on the river that flows through Questa. We are home to the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument to the west of us. We are surrounded by the Hondo Wilderness [north] and the Latir Wilderness to the east. We can now market Questa as one of the premier fishing and outdoor recreation areas in the Southwest. This has allowed us to attract a couple of businesses such as RV parks to the area. For Green Hydrogen, Chevron, who is one of our partners, has a tailings facility that is perfect to be used as a Solar facility and possibly a green hydrogen facility. This land currently houses one megawatt of solar, which provides part of the 100-percent daytime solar that feeds Questa. This land has the potential to house a large number of solar arrays that can provide daytime solar electricity to Questa and the surrounding areas for years to come. This is also the proposed location for the green hydrogen facility, which will provide storage for 100-percent nighttime green energy.
Questa has run on 100-percent day-time solar for the last 10 years. What benefits have you seen from this so far and how can we expand and build on those benefits? What is the next step?
We have been able to use this as a marketing tool to try and draw businesses to our business park as well at other locations in our community. We were able to draw Taos Bakes to our business park. They make energy bars as well as other products that are sold across the country and across the world. We can continue this model to attract more businesses that want their business in a green community. In my opinion we did not use this marketing strategy enough, but we will use it in the future. We can also use this marketing strategy to draw tourists to the community. People will be staying in a 100-percent solar fed community. We can also use this to continue and leverage more partnerships for our green hydrogen project. We would also like to use this marketing strategy to bring hotels and a convention center to Questa. Another advantage is that people in our community who could not afford to put solar on their properties or houses, can now say they are 100 percent solar because of Kit Carson Electric.