In an interview with Questa del Rio News, Village of Questa Mayor John Ortega expressed his optimism for the green hydrogen facility in the works for Questa, as a job creator and economic booster. While Questenos expressed concern over the facility’s use of water at the August 30 meeting on the issue, the coalition behind the proposed facility made it clear that it would not use the Village’s water sources; it would have its own.
“For our facility, we’re talking about five acre-feet,” said Mayor Ortega. “Five acre-feet is equivalent to about 20 to 21 homes and, I spoke to somebody within the last month, there [is technology] now that uses two acre-feet, which would be about eight homes. The water would also be 80 to 90 percent recoverable, so to me water is a non-issue.”
Questa del Rio News then pressed the Mayor on how much water rights the Village would have to prioritize for the facility.
“It’s gonna be about 5 acre-feet per year, the Village right now uses about 200 acre-feet per year,” said Mayor Ortega.
The Mayor stressed that he is not worried about the water rights and that Chevron and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) are committed to the project.
While Chevron’s donation of 120 acre-feet of water rights to the Village remains in contention at the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (OSE), Mayor Ortega said that progress is being made in those negotiations.
Questa del Rio News also reached out to Caitlyn Clark, a senior researcher in mechanical engineering at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), who happily provided us with information on the benefits and hindrances of green hydrogen as an alternative energy source.
The first benefit regarding green hydrogen is that it benefits “hard-to-abate industries,” like steel production and transportation. Hard-to-abate industries are situations where it is difficult to reduce fossil fuel emissions. The second positive is that green hydrogen enables energy producers to “bypass transmission grid constraints,” a complication that may worsen as more of the electric grid moves toward renewables. Green hydrogen can help alleviate such a complication. The third positive is that green hydrogen can help “displace other carbon-intensive processes that contaminate or use lots of water” like the burning of coal. The final benefit that Clark mentioned is “if an entity is investing in facilities that treat and purify large quantities of water to a high quality, one could leverage those facilities in areas where water treatment facilities are insufficient or lacking.” In other words, investors could apply leverage to the water treatment industry for areas that need improved water treatment.
Clark mentioned only one disadvantage around the prospect of green hydrogen: water rights. As climate change worsens, water rights may become more limited “in areas with regular drought or where water rights are fully or over-allocated.” Although Clark also pointed out that this is not an issue limited to the United States “as we hear this from clients in Australia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa as well.” And, as previously stated, Mayor Ortega is not worried about water rights for Questa for the time being.
The coalition behind this proposed green hydrogen facility is primarily made up of the Village of Questa, KCEC, the Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF), and Chevron, in collaboration with the US Department of Energy. A key player is KCEC, as they own the infrastructure for energy transport. The project would allow KCEC to become 100 percent powered by green clean energy. Currently KCEC is completely solar powered during daytime hours. However the project is still in preliminary stages, with “implementation” set for 2024, according to the US Department of Energy.