Gov. Susana Martinez addresses attendees at the groundbreaking for AG Power’s Advanced Biofuel Plant which will be located south of Roswell, Friday morning. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Gov. Susana Martinez joined local leaders Friday in celebrating the groundbreaking of a plant that will convert Chaves County dairy waste into biofuel.
The gathering of county, city and state officials were joined by community members along a county lane in front of AG Power Inc.’s future site, which promises to begin turning manure into money.
President of AG Power, Dewey Vaughn, said his team was exploring another project in Texas when they discovered the Chaves County opportunity. Dairy farmers were working on trying to find a way to deal with manure for the past seven years.
“You, as a community had already done a lot of the work ahead of time,” Vaughn said. “Every place we’ve turned we’ve had support.”
Vaughn credited the community for making the project happen.
“You as a community have spoken out,” he said. “You have taken care of your community.”
Vaughn called the project “the new gas fuels of tomorrow.”
The project will connect dairies through underground pipelines. Manure will be collected daily and mixed with wastewater, fed through the pipes and end up at the plant. Once there, the waste will be processed and methane will be extracted. The methane will later be converted into compressed natural gas to be used for transportation.
“This project shows us that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” said Commissioner Greg Nibert. “We’re pleased to see this project get off the ground.”
Nibert welcomed Vaughn to the county and said the county appreciated the investment AG Power was making in the community.
Neil Roe, president of Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation called the project a “home run.”
“This project really isn’t about jobs, it’s about retention and expansion,” Roe said. “It’s about helping dairies stay. It really is a big deal in retaining these dairies.”
Martinez spoke about the overall boost in jobs within the county, with 183 new jobs created by the AG Power project, Stewart Industry’s growth in aircraft and salvage operations, Leprino’s employment incentives and Dean Baldwin’s expansion.
“I’m proud of all the great work here in southeast New Mexico,” Martinez said. “New Mexico does exist south of Socorro.”
She then talked about the manure biofuel facility.
“Agriculture and energy are big components of our economy,” Martinez said. “Alternative fuels are good for the economy and the environment. I look forward to a great future in New Mexico.”
Gerry Greathouse of Nature’s Dairy said the plant, which is one of four that will service 22 dairies in the future, is one step forward for sustainable agriculture.
“We’re sure happy Dewey took the bat now and swung for a home run,” Greathouse said.
Many community members attended the event on Prices Lane and Tumbleweed Road, including Dennis Kintigh.
“The unsung hero really is Gerry Greathouse,” Kintigh said. “I’m pleased to see him get some recognition. This is a monument to his perseverance that this is coming together.”
Martinez joined local leaders in the inevitable “golden shovel moment” as they ceremoniously dipped into the gravel to officially open the site.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for what has been determined to be a waste to be turn into a source of energy,” said Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Dist. 32.
Mayor Del Jurney said he was encouraged about the job retention.
“It’s a great project, and one that’s needed,” he said. “The dairy business is so important to southeast New Mexico. My hat goes off to Dewey Vaughn and AG Power and the county commissioners for their work on this. This is good.”