PNM wants two more solar plants for Facebook

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Public Service Co. of New Mexico is seeking expedited Public Regulation Commission approval to build two new solar plants to supply another 100 megawatts of renewable energy to Facebook’s data center in Los Lunas.

The company filed its request on Aug. 24, asking the commission to fast-track approval of the projects by limiting protests from any intervening parties to 20 days. That would allow the commission to reach a final decision by Sept. 26, if no hearing is required, Commissioner Sandy Jones said.

The rapid review is needed to ensure the solar facilities are up and running in time to meet Facebook’s energy needs for its data center, which is going up in phases.

“They want a fast turnaround, because they have a short fuse to get the projects going for Facebook,” Jones told the Journal. “We approved PNM’s last request for expedited approval of renewable energy facilities earlier this year. I think we can do that again.”

PNM has already built 30 MW of solar plants to supply electricity to Facebook’s first two buildings. But Facebook plans to expand to six buildings over the next five years, and it wants the entire operation to be run with renewable energy.

Early this year, the PRC approved another 266 MW of both solar and wind energy that PNM will deliver to Facebook from two new wind farms in Torrance, Quay and DeBaca counties, plus a solar facility in Cibola County. Those projects, which the PRC also approved in an expedited review, will be built and operated by Avangrid Renewables and NextEra Energy Inc. under power purchase agreements for PNM to buy all the electricity for delivery to Facebook.

Now, PNM proposes another two, 50-MW solar facilities, one near Moriarty called the Britton Solar Energy Center and the other northwest of Rio Rancho called the Encino Solar Energy Center. The plants will be owned and operated by two subsidiaries created by PNM’s parent company, PNM Resources. PNM will buy the electricity from those subsidiaries under a power purchase agreement for delivery to Facebook, said PNM spokesman Pahl Shipley.

The two projects together will cost $140 million and provide up to 400 construction jobs.

The Britton project will provide about $3 million in payments in lieu of taxes over the 25-year life of that facility, plus $2.5 million in landowner payments. The Encino project will also provide $3 million in lieu of taxes and $1.2 million in landowner payments.