State agrees to expedite decision on solar plants for Facebook

SANTA FE — The Public Regulation Commission has agreed to expedite approval of two new solar plants to serve the Facebook data center expansion in Los Lunas.

The plants would supply 100 megawatts of electricity.

The commission’s action limits the time for protests from intervening parties to 20 days, meaning commissioners could issue a final order by Sept. 26, according to a news release from the PRC.

If protests are filed, a hearing would likely be scheduled on Oct. 17, with a final order issued Oct. 31, according to the news release.

Public Service Company of New Mexico filed for the expedited approval on Aug. 24. 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.

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 is proposing 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 would be owned and operated by two subsidiaries created by PNM’s parent company, PNM Resources. PNM has said it would buy the electricity from those subsidiaries under a power purchase agreement for delivery to Facebook.

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

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