Facebook, Dominion reach a deal for Virginia solar

Welcome to Virginia, Facebook. Here’s a special electricity rate just for you (for now).

The social media behemoth is adding its eight data center just outside of Richmond, and it will be powered, at least in part, by solar power. A Dominion Energy Virginia spokesperson said the project will have 300 MW capacity at full build-out, though at present there is no specific timeframe for the build-out to be completed. Facebook will be using 130 MW of that capacity.

The projects will be constructed at several offsite locations near the new center, but the specific sites have not been chosen yet.

To attract Facebook, Dominion Virginia Energy created a new rate plan called Schedule RF (renewable facility) to calculate Facebook’s rates, a formula they plan to file with the Virginia State Corporation Commission for approval later this month. Under the plan, Facebook could deliver electricity to the grid and use that to offset its own energy use.

“Access to clean energy is joining reliability and price as important considerations when businesses decide to locate their operations,” said Robert M. Blue, president and CEO of Dominion Energy’s Power Delivery Group. “If the corporation commission approves it, this new rate structure creates a model that can be used by other large businesses as well. It opens the door to attracting more businesses and more jobs for the communities we serve

To qualify for Schedule RF, businesses must bring new electrical load and agree to purchase environmental attributes from renewable energy sources as defined by Virginia law.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Facebook was tied with Dow Chemical as the fifth largest corporate procurer of renewable energy in 2016, though the 150 MW recorded was all wind energy. The company has stated that it would like to power all its facilities by renewable energy eventually, though no timetable for the 100% commitment appears to have been set.

Facebook has made a public commitment to have 50% of its facilities powered by renewable energy by the end of next year.

Update: This article was edited at 10:05 am to include the total capacity for the build-out, which Dominion Virginia Energy got to pv magazine after the initial deadline.

Update: This article was edited at 10:48 am to add that Facebook will only be using 130 MW of the total capacity, which Dominion Virginia Energy clarified after the article first appeared.