In hot water: New Mexico battles the dark side of renewable energy

In hot water: New Mexico battles the dark side of renewable energy

SOURCE: SearchLight New Mexico DATE: March 26, 2019 SNIP: The dark side of renewable energy is that every form of production carries its own environmental baggage. Without an ecological review, wind farms can put native and migratory birds at risk. Solar farms can interrupt ecosystems by fencing off and shading swaths of desert acreage. And geothermal energy, which has some advantages over wind and solar, can jeopardize freshwater resources. In Hidalgo County, the deep geothermal water is dirty with naturally occurring contaminants — especially high levels of fluoride, a mineral that, when consumed in excess, is dangerous to bone health. Riding his horse through cattle pasture of brush and brittle mesquite, Randy Walter spotted a steaming, 10-foot geyser spewing from a well that had been capped and padlocked for 12 years. It was March 2016, and Walter had ranched the dry terrain of New Mexico’s Bootheel for as long as he could remember. If he knew one thing about the Animas Valley, it was this: Water doesn’t just blow out of the ground. Two miles away, a Utah company called Cyrq Energy had erected a $43 million geothermal electricity plant in 2013. Its green pipes and rectangular pods of turbines rose like stacks of giant Legos in the desert. From the outset, local residents had questioned Cyrq’s assertion that it could pump geothermal water from thousands of feet down and reinject it at similar depths without tainting the shallow, freshwater aquifer. Like many places in New Mexico, the health of the local farm and ranch economy is rooted to the water. So are the lives of the scattered people...