ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The buzz surrounding the proposed Facebook data center in Los Lunas has mostly centered on the potential economic impact of bringing the social media giant to New Mexico. But some say an equally exciting aspect of the project is the “green rider” contained in a contract between Facebook and the state’s largest utility.
“It’s a good, balanced model for how other companies could come into this state and have all their energy needs provided by renewables,” said Steve Michel, attorney for Western Resource Advocates, an intervening party when the contract was before state regulators.
Facebook is deciding between Los Lunas and West Jordan, Utah, for the site of its new $250 million data center, and is expected to announce its decision this month.
On Aug. 17, the state Public Regulation Commission approved a special services contract between Facebook and Public Service Company of New Mexico for the utility to supply the company with renewable energy for all of its electricity requirements.
The green rider creates a legal mechanism for PNM to acquire renewable energy on Facebook’s behalf and then to be compensated by Facebook for those resources. Under the rider, the data center’s energy would come primarily from three solar facilities built by PNM and funded by Facebook.
When the facilities produce more energy than the data center uses, PNM would credit Facebook at the market price of energy acquired from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona. Should the solar facilities produce less energy than the data center requires, PNM would power the site with its existing infrastructure at a rate that includes a fee that is fixed for 10 years, according to a different part of the contract.
PNM’s regulatory filings show Facebook could pay the utility up to $31 million a year for electricity.