A few weeks ago, on Dec. 8, Galehead Development hosted an open house with a small, passionate group of Luna County residents to discuss our planned solar project, South Peak. The group arrived five minutes early armed with notes, printouts from articles and a deep desire to improve their community. As we sat down to enjoy delicious chile rellenos and enchiladas from La Parrilla Restaurant, one of the residents proclaimed, “We’re here to ask a lot of questions.” The lively meeting lasted the full two hours with conversations lingering in the parking lot.
We spoke at length about solar development in general, touching on topics from taxes to workforce development, and specifically focused on the impacts of the South Peak project on Luna County. The attending group raised thoughtful questions and readily absorbed answers provided. Our team came away from the meeting inspired by the citizens of Luna County and their active engagement in the future of their community and excited to continue to partner with them to bring the project to fruition.
Similar to farming for nuts, hay and chile peppers, southern New Mexico is an ideal location to “farm the sun.” The climate and open land make it cost-effective to generate clean, renewable power that contributes to the state’s overall energy goals. The Luna County Comprehensive Plan acknowledges this and encourages the development of local solar projects like South Peak.
We believe that responsibly developed renewable energy projects such as South Peak will support the vision for a vibrant and growing local economy articulated at the open house. South Peak will contribute millions of dollars of new tax revenue to Luna County, which can be re-invested in schools, roads, or in a multitude of ways as the county sees fit. The project is expected to produce more than 150 jobs during construction as well as permanent operations and maintenance roles. Local labor will be prioritized and local businesses will see revenues rise due to increased economic activity. The project’s presence will also serve to attract other economic investment from corporations driven by management and shareholders alike to procure cheap, clean energy to power new factories and other energy-intensive facilities.
Galehead believes in the strategic value of solar energy for both the nation and its constituent local communities. Our company was founded by military veterans and employs many others on staff. That background helps us to understand the importance of sourcing the nation’s energy at home from cheap and abundant natural resources such as the sun, rather than finite and increasingly expensive fossil fuels. Solar power makes our country more secure, resilient, and less dependent on foreign powers. South Peak will contribute to these national objectives by providing power to the Public Service Company of New Mexico for use in Luna County, while also providing several other benefits to the county and its residents.
We are committed to the responsible development of all our solar projects and will strictly follow all permitting processes required by federal, state and county governments. Prior to constructing the project, we will obtain the required stormwater permit from the New Mexico Environmental Department, file a dust control plan with Luna County and NMED, a comprehensive road and traffic plan with the New Mexico Department of Transportation and obtain all required permits from other agencies. Third-party environmental consultants conducted rigorous biological and aquatic resource surveys and found no impact to any threatened or endangered species or waterways. In addition, native plants below the panels, planted with native seeds, will boost local pollinator populations. The project will be an excellent neighbor. It will be quiet. It will drain as well or better than before. It is non-toxic and will not pollute. And its energy production will be as predictable and reliable as the sun.
Working with local experts, South Peak will design a vegetation and viewshed plan to maximize landscape and vegetation benefits and improve aesthetics. Despite the additional labor and construction, there is not expected to be a significant change in traffic patterns in the area including Gold Avenue and downtown Deming on an ongoing basis.
I am very grateful to have spent time with the engaged and passionate citizens of Luna County. We will continue to work with the residents and neighbors to ensure that stakeholders have a voice in the implementation of this project. I can see how much they care about their community, and we believe that South Peak will contribute to keeping Luna County a great place to live.
James Wayne is the senior associate of Galehead Development. He invites communications via [email protected]