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Facebook to power Ala. data center with solar energy under TVA rate plan

Facebook Inc. will open a $750 million data center in Huntsville, Ala., that will be 100% powered by solar energy with the help of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

TVA will work with the social media company to identify solar energy projects in the area to power the 970,000-square-foot facility, Facebook said in a June 14 blog post. Facebook is also working with the power provider to create a renewable energy tariff that will be open for qualifying customers besides Facebook to purchase power from renewable resources.

Facebook announced plans for the data center June 14, saying it should be in operation in 2020. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey joined in the announcement, saying the data center will create about 100 jobs. Facebook was awarded a 10-year state investment credit valued at $86.3 million, but Ivey said the project is expected to produce roughly $300 million in additional revenues over the next 30 years.

TVA has not published the details of the tariff, spokesman Scott Fiedler said in an email June 15. However, "the renewable energy solution developed with Facebook will be available to other large commercial and industrial customers and is not targeted toward residential customers," he said.

In 2017, the Omaha Public Power District created a new tariff to provide energy from renewable resources to Facebook and other large customers. Under that tariff, Facebook contracted for 200 MW from a wind energy facility to supply a data center near Papillion, Neb.

This is not the first time TVA has partnered with a tech giant to procure renewables; in 2015, the energy provider helped Google Inc. power a planned $600 million data center in Clarksville, Tenn., with 100% renewable energy.

To date, TVA has more than 1,700 MW of operating or contracted renewable energy powering the Tennessee Valley region and plans to spend $8 billion over the next 20 years to support its renewable energy efforts, Fiedler said.

After President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement on climate change in June 2017, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would power every data center it built with renewable energy. Besides its Alabama and Nebraska data centers, a $1 billion data center in Los Lunas, N.M., will be supplied with 267 MW of renewables under three power purchase agreement with a PNM Resources Inc. subsidiary.