Corporate PPAs alive and well – Facebook & Fifth Third Bank sign on


Despite the Section 201 tariffs and tax reform taxing a bite out of tax equity finance, corporate power purchase agreements (PPA) with solar projects are still getting signed.

Yesterday Fifth Third Bank announced that it has signed a deal for an 80 MW solar power plant to be built in North Carolina, which will offset 100% of the bank’s annual electricity usage. Fifth Third Bank also announced that it joined The Climate Group and Carbon Disclosure Project’s RE100 initiative and the Business Renewables Center.

The deal represents two firsts for a Fortune 500 company. Fifth Third Bank is the first to completely offset their electricity usage using 100% solar power, as well as the first to cover 100% of their electricity with a single project.

The project’s marketing information suggests the 80 MW-AC project will produce 194 gigawatt hours per year – which would represent a 27% capacity factor.

This project is a ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system consisting of approximately 367,213 solar PV modules mounted on single-axis tracking and will utilize fifty-four 1.56 MW inverters dialed down to 1.482 MW each. Single-axis trackers have dominated utility scale installations in the United States, with projects in the southwest breaking 30% capacity factors.

SunEnergy1 is the developer, owner and builder of the project. It is suggested the project will cost $200 million, or $2.50 per watt. As utility scale installations in North Carolina are usually built at costs close to $1/W, this $200 million price includes plenty of profit for developers.

Facebook has also signed a PPA for its new Newtown Data Center located about 40 miles east of downtown Atlanta. The PPA will allow the facility to source 100% of its power from renewable energy.

No terms of the deal were disclosed – only that the local municipality, Walton EMC, would install “hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy”.

Georgia Power, one of the state’s main electricity utilities, sells power to data centers at 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour – a heavy discount from the 5.5 cents per kWh that they charged a year ago.

Morgan Stanley’s North American power and gas business funded this project.

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