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PNM wants to add wind and solar farms for Facebook facility

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two new wind farms and a solar facility may be built in New Mexico to supply another 266 megawatts of renewable energy to Facebook’s massive data center in Los Lunas.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico asked the Public Regulation Commission on Wednesday to approve power purchase agreements with third-party producers to build new generating facilities in eastern, central and western New Mexico.

PNM is already building three solar plants of its own in Los Lunas to supply 30 MW of power for the first two buildings in Facebook’s facility. But Facebook announced plans to expand to six buildings over the next five years, ramping up its energy needs.

To supply the additional power, PNM negotiated agreements with two companies, Avangrid Renewables and NextEra Energy Inc., to build and run the plants and sell the energy to PNM for delivery to Facebook.

That includes:

• A 166 MW wind farm that Avangrid will build east of Estancia in Torrance County, to open by 2020. It will be Avangrid’s second wind facility in that county, where it’s now finishing construction of the 298 MW El Cabo Wind Farm near Moriarty.

• A $72 million, 50 MW wind farm in Quay and DeBaca counties in eastern New Mexico to be built by NextEra and completed in December 2018.

• A $75 million, 50 MW solar plant that NextEra will build in Cibola County to open in December 2021.

PNM is requesting that the PRC expedite approval of the power purchase agreements to accommodate Facebook’s fast-track construction plans for the data center. PNM wants PRC commissioners to directly hear the case, rather than sending it first to hearing examiners for recommendations, potentially paving the way for approval by April 4.

The PRC approved a new “green energy tariff” in 2016 that allows PNM to negotiate special rates with large-scale consumers like Facebook who want to power their facilities with renewable resources. The tariff covers the full cost of electricity produced, eliminating any impact on other customers’ bills.

The new purchase agreements would be included under the same tariff arrangement.

Facebook says the new agreements reflect the company’s commitment to exclusively power its data center with renewable resources.

“This filing represents over 200 MW of new wind and solar energy projects that, if approved, will be built in New Mexico,” the company said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the Public Regulation Commission’s initial consideration and approval of the original (green energy) tariff, which enabled this proposed renewable energy procurement.”

The projects would have a significant economic impact in New Mexico, with at least 450 construction jobs generated by NextEra’s two facilities.

Avangrid has not yet provided investment and job estimates for its wind project, but it says the impact would be similar to its El Cabo Wind Farm. That was a $500 million investment with 400 construction jobs and 17 permanent ones.

“This is another tremendous economic development opportunity for New Mexico,” said an Avangrid spokesman. “…If the regulators approve this deal, we’re well on our way to bringing further tax dollars, land payments and jobs to rural New Mexico.”

Avangrid’s El Cabo project provides about $1 million per year in payment in lieu of taxes to Torrance County, and over $1 million per year in landowner payments.

NextEra says its planned wind farm will generate about $3.5 million in payment in lieu of property taxes and $4.8 million for landowners over 25 years. The Cibola solar facility will also offer about $6.2 million in payments over 25 years to the county and the Grants/Cibola County School District.

PNM said the partnership with Facebook is a win-win arrangement that’s creating more clean energy while boosting the local economy.

“We look forward to working with Facebook and the commission on these new projects that will do even more to help the environment as well as bolster economic development,” said PNM Vice President for External Affairs Becky Teague.

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