If things go according to plan, three new utility-scale solar projects in Utah and New Mexico will add nearly 160MW of generation capacity to the Facebook data center power supply in the US.
They will be on the same utility grids as the social network’s sprawling data center campuses in Prineville, Oregon, and Los Lunas, New Mexico. The new capacity will help Facebook get closer to its goal of powering its operations entirely with renewable energy and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its operations by 75 percent by 2020, which the company committed to in August.
Two 50MW projects are planned in New Mexico and a 58MW one in Utah. The latter is expected to generate energy for the Prineville campus.
Facebook is well on its way to rivaling Google’s parent Alphabet in the amount of renewable energy it buys. Alphabet is currently said to be the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy after having bought enough solar and wind energy to power all its data centers and other global operations.
As of this past April, Alphabet had secured 3GW of clean energy, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Facebook said in August that it had signed contracts for at least that much, 2.5GW of which was contracted within the preceding 12 months.
Renewable energy has become a contest of sorts between the world’s largest cloud platforms, whose data centers are responsible for most of their total energy consumption. Apple has committed to buying 4GW of renewable energy by 2020, while Amazon Web Services is aiming to power half of its energy demand from clean sources.
The New Mexico solar projects will be built by NM Renewable Development, a joint venture between PNM Resources, the holding company whose utilities serve customers in New Mexico and Texas, and American Electric Power, operator of the largest electricity transmission network in the US, spanning 40,000 miles across 11 states.
Costing about $70 million each, the first project is expected to come online by the end of next year, and the second by June 2020, according to the PNM announcement.
The solar farm outside of Enterprise, Utah – some 800 miles southeast of Prineville – will be built by First Solar, a maker of photovoltaic solar systems. Scheduled for commissioning in late 2020, the Cove Mountain Solar Project will sell energy to PacifiCorp, whose two utility subsidiaries serve customers in six states, including Utah and Oregon. One of the subsidiaries, Pacific Power, is Facebook’s energy supplier in Prineville.
PacifiCorp’s power purchase agreement with First Solar is part of a larger deal structured to provide the Facebook data center campus in Oregon with 100 percent renewable energy, First Solar said.