Solar array to serve Facebook, bring $100K in taxes to county

BERNALILLO — A unanimous vote at the last month’s Sandoval County Commission meeting will allow PNM to build a solar farm that will serve Facebook at a discounted price.

The commission approved a $70 million industrial revenue bond to finance construction of a solar energy generation facility that will run 100 percent of its power to the Facebook facility in Los Lunas.

Sandoval County financial advisor Rob Burpo said PNM and American Electric Power will build this facility nine miles northwest of Unser Boulevard and Paseo del Volcan, within the Jemez Valley School District.

Daniel Alsup, Sandoval County’s bond attorney, said the project company has agreed to pay back the bonds, so the county will pay nothing.

“The county is actually barred by statute from operating the project in any way,” Alsup said, addressing the commission. “The county is essentially a conduit here.”

Burpo said the county is taking in $3,200 a year in property taxes from the property where the solar farm will be built.

“It’s very desolate, isolated land,” he said. “The payment we have in lieu of taxes (for the solar farm) is $100,000 a year, fixed for 25 years.”

Burpo said $25,000 of the payment will go to the Jemez Valley School District and $75,000 will go to the county.

“(The Jemez Valley School District) is going to use that money to pay a resource officer, which will be a Sandoval County sheriff’s deputy,” he said. “In exchange for this position, the school district is giving the county an office at the school so any county sheriffs that are in the area…can use it.”

Burpo said the school district is also giving the county use of a home in Jemez Springs at no cost, including all utilities paid by the school district, to be used by a deputy to cut back on commute time.

After completion of the solar array, PNM will sell Facebook power at an approximate price of just over 3 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 25 years, Burpo said. Construction on this project will start in two weeks and take an estimated 12 months to finish, he said, with nearly 120 people working on it.

“At the end of the day, it’s a big square piece of land, and once they get those solar panels up, (PNM) will probably have a maintenance guy go out there once or twice a month to maintenance the area,” Burpo said. “This is a property tax play as opposed to a jobs play.”

Commissioner Jay Block said in a phone interview that the positive aspect of this IRB is obvious in the form of the tax revenue the county will receive. Block said the negative aspect is that Facebook is a multi-billion dollar company getting a huge subsidy.

“I’m not happy that Facebook will be getting power at 75 percent less than the rest the people in our area that work hard to pay their electric bills,” he said. “How do you tell them, if they are struggling to pay their bills, that Facebook is getting this huge discount and you’re not?”

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