Renewable Energy, Solar

Promise of Dominion solar brings Facebook center to Virginia

Dominion Energy Virginia will add solar energy into its grid and hopes  to create a new rate option to power a new Facebook data center to be built in suburban Richmond.

The utility plans to file a new renewable rate option request with Virginia regulators later this month. The option, called Schedule RF (for renewable facility) would allow Facebook to offset its annual energy needs with clean energy delivered by Dominion into the grid.

“Access to clean energy is joining reliability and price as important considerations when businesses decide to locate their operations,” said Robert M. Blue, president and CEO of Dominion Energy’s Power Delivery Group, in a statement Thursday. “We are pleased we have been able to develop a solution for Facebook that meets all those requirements and creates a model that can be used by other large businesses as well. It opens the door to attracting more businesses and more jobs for the communities we serve.”

The release did not give details about where and how Dominion would supply the extra solar into the system, although some reports indicate that it hopes to add about 300 MW specifically to offset the Facebook demand and benefit other customers. The utility has previously announced it plans to develop numerous larger-scale solar projects through 2020 and add at least 5,200 MW of solar in Virginia over the next few decades.

Other news reports indicated that the RF tariff was key to the agreement with Facebook. The Henrico County center could cost about $750 million to build with another $250 million in solar infrastructure, according to wire reports.

“We know from experience that when people come together, they can do a lot of good in the world,” said Bobby Hollis, director of Global Energy at Facebook, in a statement. “We came together with Dominion Energy Virginia to create a new tariff that ensures renewable energy solutions are accessible not just to Facebook, but other companies as well. This new opportunity for customers to access renewable energy enables us to get one step closer to our goal of powering 100 percent of our operations with clean and renewable energy.”

The new data center in Henrico County will be comprised of two separate buildings and administrative space totaling nearly one million square feet. Dominion Energy Virginia plans to construct multiple solar facilities in the Commonwealth.

The center could employ about 100 full-time jobs.