The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) signed an agreement with US developers First Solar and NextEra Energy Resources to build 377 megawatts (MW) worth of new solar capacity in Alabama and Tennessee to provide 100% renewable energy to Facebook’s Huntsville, Alabama data center.
Formed in 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States, providing electricity for businesses and local power companies which serve nearly 10 million people across seven states in the southeast of the United States, including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Last week, the company announced that it had signed an agreement with First Solar and NextEra Energy Resources to build 377 MW worth of new solar capacity which will go towards powering Facebook’s Huntsville, Alabama data center with 100% renewable energy — in line with Facebook’s August commitment to power 100% of its offices and data centers with renewable energy, and lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 75%, all by 2020.
Specifically, First Solar will construct a 227 MW solar project in Colbert County, Alabama, and NextEra Energy Resources will construct a 150 MW 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.”
Both projects were a direct result of TVA’s 2017 Request for Proposals which it made 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.”
“This announcement demonstrates TVA’s commitment to invest in renewable energy that attracts high-paying jobs to benefit the communities we serve,” added Doug Perry, TVA vice president of Commercial Energy Solutions. “This partnership aligns the core values of TVA’s public power model with Facebook’s mission to bring the world closer together — powered by renewable energy.”
“Solar power has a bright future for families in the Tennessee Valley if we can continue to attract top-tier companies like Facebook,” Perry continued, referencing TVA’s plans to invest $8 billion in renewable energy over the next 20 years.
However, according to the company’s own predictions, its wind and solar offerings will only increase marginally, up from 3% in 2018 to 5% by 2027 (see right). I reached out to TVA regarding the company’s plans for renewable energy, and Scott Fiedler, TVA’s Public Relations spokesperson, provided the following explanation:
“TVA is constantly updating and reviewing our generation mix to ensure we are using the least-cost sources available. As of now, wind and solar are still not cost competitive with our baseload generation sources. However, we are preparing for the future. Right now we are in the process of updating our Integrated Resource Plan, which will look at all the potential energy sources over the next decade. Those results will be out next year.
“In regard to renewable energy driving top-tier jobs and investment — Facebook is a flagship example,” Fiedler continued. “Facebook is investing $750 million and will employ about 100 at their facility. Moving forward, TVA will continue to look for opportunities that will attract top-tier companies to the Tennessee Valley. As the release states, we are planning to invest $8 billion over the next 20 years on renewable energy.
“What is important to remember is that since 2005 we have reduced carbon by 50%. This is almost twice that of the industry as a whole which sits at 28% over the same time period. Our current generating mix is about 55% carbon-free. As a result, we have made great progress in reducing carbon – and reducing carbon is the overarching goal.”