New Mexico reviews power plan for Facebook data center

By The Associated Press

Environmental groups joined with executives of New Mexico's largest electricity provider Tuesday in urging quick approval of a renewable energy plan designed to lure a Facebook data center to the state.

 

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Environmental groups joined with executives of New Mexico's largest electricity provider Tuesday in urging quick approval of a renewable energy plan designed to lure a Facebook data center to the state.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission listened to testimony at a public hearing in Santa Fe on a proposal from investor-owned utility Public Service Co. of New Mexico to provide electricity to a power-intensive Facebook data center in Los Lunas. The commission may make a decision as soon as next week, agency spokesman Carlos Padilla said.

Gerard Ortiz, vice president of regulatory affairs for PNM, said if Facebook moves forward with a data center in New Mexico, then an affiliate would initially build three industrial scale solar facilities to offset electricity consumption at the data center. He said PNM expects that wind power plants eventually would be added in equal measure, providing renewable energy beyond daylight hours.

In its application, PNM says the agreement with Facebook would pay for a transmission line extension and provide the utility with revenues that reduce financial burdens on other utility customers.

Stephanie Dzur, an attorney for the Western Resource Advocates environmental group, praised Facebook for paying its own way for power upgrades and urged approval by the commission.

"They made a big effort on the front end, PNM and Facebook, to present an application that did not seek a lot of cross subsidization from other customers and wouldn't generate objections."

Facebook still may choose to locate the plant in Utah, where Rocky Mountain Power has filed a similar application with state regulators.

Ortiz said the utility already has signed a service contract with Facebook that may be canceled if the commission does not act by the end of August. He said Facebook aims to put the data center in service during the third quarter of 2017.

PNM estimates that Facebook initially would invest at least $250 million data center and create 30-50 full time jobs, while potentially expanding over time.

An array of public officials in New Mexico are urging approval of the Facebook power plan, including New Mexico's five-member U.S. congressional delegation and state Attorney General Hector Balderas.

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