LEAP Community Overview

Questa, New Mexico

Community Challenges
Low employment in energy sector

Primary Technical Assistance Focus
Clean energy development

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Community at a Glance

The Village of Questa is a resourceful rural mining and farming community of approximately 1,700 people located in the foothills of northern New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountain range, which provides abundant natural resources and recreation opportunities. Questa is also home to Chevron’s molybdenum mine, which closed in 2014 and caused significant job loss. This mine is now under environmental remediation and those efforts are expected to continue into the 2040s with the water treatment plant operating “in perpetuity.” Questa’s residents are predominantly multi-generational Spanish, Mexican, Native American, and Anglo, resulting in a vibrant cultural heritage. Like many rural communities, Questa lacks access to good paying jobs, transportation, quality housing, and basic services, all of which strain the community’s resilience to disruptive events.  

A coalition of stakeholders are interested in exploring ways to reuse the mine’s resources to further their clean energy goals of generating low-emission electricity, storing energy, and powering vehicles. The community’s electricity supply, provided by Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC), is already generated by 100% solar energy during daylight hours.

The Questa stakeholder coalition is partnering with the Communities Local Energy Action Program (LEAP) pilot technical assistance (TA) provider network, led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to develop a hydrogen feasibility study and an economic impacts analysis to determine potential costs and benefits of building a hydrogen production facility, powered by excess solar photovoltaics, to supply nighttime electricity to KCEC members. The study could also help KCEC meet a state mandate to decarbonize their energy supply while creating new economic opportunities in Questa.

Why Communities LEAP?

Questa is aiming to become a regional clean energy hub that provides robust and diverse energy employment opportunities for the local community and supports the area’s outdoor recreation, light manufacturing, agricultural, and cultural opportunities. To accomplish these goals, Communities LEAP TA will focus on a hydrogen feasibility study and an economic impacts analysis. These analyses will provide the Questa community coalition with the information they need to determine whether they should actively pursue the development of an electrolytic hydrogen plant in Questa (e.g., on the mine’s former tailings facility site). TA may also provide information and guidance on applying for local, state, and federal incentives and other funding opportunities. Communities LEAP TA will also leverage Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico State University, and other regional institutions of education to align Questa’s project with other state-wide hydrogen economy initiatives.

What does LEAP support look like?

Planned TA through Communities LEAP includes:

  • A hydrogen feasibility study to assess future hydrogen demand in and around the KCEC service area, availability of water and photovoltaic generation, existing and planned infrastructure for electricity and hydrogen transportation and storage, and on-site hydrogen storage options.
  • An economic and workforce development analysis to estimate job creation, additional tax revenue, and other potential local economic impacts from hydrogen projects.
  • Local outreach to key stakeholders, regulators, potential partners, special interest groups, and the general public to inform study inputs and limitations, to share findings, and to address community questions and concerns.

Communities LEAP Project Partners

  • Village of Questa will provide data on water availability, land availability, demographics, and local businesses as well as coordinate meetings with key stakeholders.
  • Kit Carson Electric Cooperative will provide data on power sector hydrogen demand, infrastructure and loads, as well as coordinate meetings with key stakeholders.
  • Chevron Corporation will provide data on mine properties, water rights and physical presence of water within the mine, and former and current mine employee workforce data.
  • Questa Economic Development Fund will provide or assist with collecting data on local businesses, championing the public outreach strategy, and coordinating meetings with key stakeholders.
A group of seven people wearing hard hats and hi-visibility vest by a mountain road and mine.