“We just want Solar in Gallup...”
People will remember one fateful drive five women took to Albuquerque in March 2007 as Gallup Solar's beginning, but the seeds were sown in the lives of members long before this.
Sister Rosemarie Cecchini and Betsy Windisch had long been involved with grassroots organizations such as Stewards of Creations and Interfaith Power and Light, which championed responsible use of environmental resources and a return to spiritual connection with non-human parts of life.
Windisch found records of Senator Pete Domenici's endorsement of solar energy feasibility in the 1960s, and admitted she had been thinking about solar power in Gallup for years.
“Seeing nuclear plants, mining and the old, death dealing paradigm that refuses to face reality, ...it became clear that we wanted something to happen.” said Cecchini, of the industrial and mental climate precipitating Gallup Solar.
The March 30 drive was to see Jane Goodall speak to the youth involved in Roots and Shoots at the Rio Rancho Nature Center. The excitement of this experience and the conversation that followed on the way back to Gallup gave first voicing to the idea of a photovoltaic plant in Gallup. Four of original five women came to the consensus that they all wanted to work for solar power in the Gallup area, but it was Be Sargent who first articulated this unacknowledged desire.
“You couldn't be there that day and say, 'No.',” recalled Pat Sheely.
Unlike some previous activism the members were involved in, which tended to focus on opposing projects of questionable safety, such as uranium mining and new coal power plants in the Four Corners area, Gallup Solar was a major shift toward creating a positive change within the community.
Members agreed this was a relief.
Before Gallup Solar, solar power within and around Gallup had been limited to expensive applications to individual buildings. Gallup Solar represented a platform to bring affordable renewable energy to all. And the spiritual reasons were intertwined with the ideas of stewardship and social justice.
“ I can't really separate the injustice part,” said Sr. Houlihan. “ We cannot separate destroying and thinking all is right. The ones who suffer are the poor.”
Many of the original members grew up on farms and sought to bridge the growing disconnection between the general population and that which sustained them: the earth. So the group was founded to answer this question: Is desire foundation enough to bring renewable energy to Gallup?
written by Ender Kirin
The five original founders pose with Jane Goodall in Albuquerque, March 30, 2007. They are from left to right: Be Sargent, Pat Sheely, assistant to Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall, Sister Rose Marie Cecchini, Sister Joan Brown, Betsy Windisch, and Sister Maureen Houlihan.
Members of Gallup Solar deliver a packet to PNM detailing why they should consider McKinley County as the location for their megawatt-scale CSP plant.
While visiting a possible site location outside Gallup, Rose Marie stops to take a photograph of the landscape.
The group meets weekly at the Work In Beauty House. Meetings usually attract around 10 members.