TVA shifts from coal with 377 MW solar pipeline for Facebook

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Tennessee Valley Authority, not a great fan of non-hydro renewables, signs deal two big solar developments that will deliver 100% renewable energy to local Facebook data centres.

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The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) last week signed an agreement with two solar developers that includes a commitment to build a 377MW worth of solar which will power Facebook’s data centre in Huntsville, Alabama, with 100% renewable energy.

TVA is a federally owned corporation in the United States which provides electricity to business customers and power companies serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states – including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

In 2007, the company’s power portfolio was dominated by coal, which accounted for 58% of generation, followed by 26% of nuclear and 10% of natural gas. This year, that portfolio has shifted dramatically, and now coal only provides 26%, while natural gas provides 20% and nuclear 40%.

Looking forward, it appears TVA does not see much hope in non-hydro renewable energy sources, with its portfolio expected to expand its wind and solar offerings from 3% in 2018 to 5% in 2027.

Nevertheless, TVA last week signed an agreement with solar developers First Solar and NextEra Energy Resources to build 337MW worth of new solar capacity, which will go towards powering Facebook’s data centre in Huntsville, Alabama with 100% renewable energy.

First Solar will construct a 227MW solar project in Colbert County, Alabama, and NextEra Energy Resources will construct a 150MW project in Lincoln County, Tennessee.

“TVA’s commitment to the environment and our diverse portfolio are among the top reasons why businesses choose to relocate to the Valley,” said John Bradley, TVA’s senior vice president of Economic Development. “TVA’s ability to deliver large amounts of renewable, reliable energy at competitive rates makes the Valley an attractive place to do business and recruit quality jobs.”

The projects are a direct result of TVA’s 2017 Request for Proposals, offered up in conjunction with Facebook.

“We are committed to supporting our operations with 100 percent renewable energy and look to partner with organizations like TVA who offer solutions to help meet that goal,” said Bryce Dalley, energy manager, Facebook. “TVA has been a great, responsive partner, and we are looking forward to being a part of the community in Huntsville.”

On Facebook’s side of things, the move is part of the company’s commitment to power all of its data centres and offices with 100% renewable energy by 2020 – a commitment it made in August at the same time that it committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by the same time.

“Due to the growing number of people joining the Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp community and the use of new features like video and stories, we have had to grow our data center presence with six data centers announced in just the last 12 months,” said Bobby Hollis, Facebook’s Head of Global Energy, earlier this year.

“This growth, and our strong commitment to renewable energy, has driven our strategy and procurement. In addition, we also worked hard with our key partners to enable renewable energy for our original data centers.

“We hope to lead by example and show how renewable energy is not only good for the world and for communities, but it also makes good business sense. We are not only committed to supporting all of our operations with 100% renewable energy, but to growing and improving access to the market.

“We have done this by encouraging our partners and community stakeholders to foster renewable market development and by working with utilities to develop green tariffs that allow companies like us to buy new renewable resources.”

This most recent deal with TVA comes hot on the heels of Facebook’s own announcement that it would build an additional 100 MW of new solar capacity to support its $1 billion data centre in Los Lunas, New Mexico.

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