In its continuing quest to power all of its data centers by renewable energy, social media company Meta has moved into the Gem State of Idaho. The operator of Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook turned to a Salt Lake City-based project developer to construct what could become the largest utility solar project in Idaho to support its Boise, Id., data operations, at 200 MW of power capacity.
This week project developer rPlus Energies announced the signing of a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with investor-owned utility Idaho Power to install the 200 MW Pleasant Valley Solar project in Ada County, Idaho. Once completed, the utility solar project would be the largest solar farm in the utility’s service territory.
The developer says Pleasant Valley’s construction is expected to utilize local contractors during the construction stage, bringing significant revenue to the area, benefiting local businesses, and bringing in 220 construction workers. Construction on the facility is expected to begin later this year.
“The sunshine is plentiful in Idaho – and we at rPlus Energies are proud to help the state achieve a commonsense approach to energy independence and utilize the abundant energy source to its full potential,” said Luigi Resta, president and chief executive officer of rPlus Energies.
The developer was awarded the Pleasant Valley Solar PPA through a negotiated process with Meta and Idaho Power. The PPA was made possible by an Energy Services Agreement that will allow Meta access to renewables to support its local operations while power also goes to the utility. Pleasant Valley will deliver clean power into the Idaho Power grid and contribute to Meta’s goal of powering 100% of its operations with clean energy.
The developer has retained Sundt Renewables to provide engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services for the Pleasant Valley project. The EPC has experience in the region, and has contracted with rPlus Energies for 280 MW of utility solar projects in neighboring state Utah.
“Meta is committed to minimizing our environmental footprint in the communities where we live and work, and central to this goal is creating, building and running energy-efficient data centers supported by renewable energy,” said Urvi Parekh, head of renewable energy at Meta. “One of the core factors in selecting Idaho for our new data center location in 2022 was access to renewable energy, and Meta is proud to partner with Idaho Power and rPlus Energies to help bring even more renewable energy to the Treasure Valley grid.”
Pleasant Valley Solar will significantly increase the amount of renewable energy on Idaho Power’s system. The utility is actively procuring renewable energy projects towards its goal of generating 100% clean energy by 2045. According to SEIA, as of Q4 2022, the state famed for its potatoes ranked 29th in the U.S. for solar developments, with just 644 MW of total installations.
“Pleasant Valley will not only become the largest solar project on our system, but it’s also an example of how our proposed Clean Energy Your Way program can help us partner with customers to meet their own clean energy goals,” said Lisa Grow, chief executive officer of Idaho Power.
At the recent Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Finance, Tax and Buyers Seminar in New York, Meta’s Parekh said the social media company is seeing a robust 30% compound annual growth rate for the deployment of renewable energy projects that it pairs with its new data center operations.
As of early 2023, Meta stands as the largest commercial and industrial purchaser of solar power in the U.S., boasting close to 3.6 GW of installed solar capacity. Parekh also revealed that the company has over 9 GW of capacity awaiting development over the coming years, with projects such as Pleasant Valley Solar representing its growing renewables portfolio.
In late 2022, Resta told pv magazine USA the western states developer is actively working on a 1.2 GW development portfolio amid a broader 13 GW multi-year project pipeline that includes solar, energy storage, wind and pumped hydro storage assets.
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