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Facebook Will Be Salt River Project’s Largest Off Taker For New Solar Energy Plants

Following its recent announcement to expand utility-scale solar resources to 2,025 megawatts (MW) by 2025, Arizona’s Salt River Project (SRP), based in Tempe, on August 12 announced three new solar energy plants that will deliver a total of 500 megawatts (MW).

Facebook announced that it will be SRP’s largest off taker of these new resources, utilizing 450 MW of the combined solar capacity to support Facebook’s newly announced data center in Mesa, Ariz., and help meet the company’s 100 percent renewable energy commitments.

The three projects include two 200-MW solar plants and one 100-MW solar plant. SRP is contracting with subsidiaries of solar developers AES, EDP and NextEra Energy Resources to construct and operate the three new plants. The first project is expected to come online in fall 2022 and the start of construction for all the new solar plants, which will all be located in Pinal County, Ariz., will begin at different points in time throughout 2022.

“Doubling our solar resources to over 2,000 MW and having one of the largest storage commitments in the West is among the strategic ways SRP is enhancing access to sustainable solutions for customers,” said SRP’s CEO and General Manager Mike Hummel in a statement. “Facebook’s approach aligns well with SRP’s carbon reduction commitments and working together on this project helped accelerate SRP’s plans to add more solar generation to our energy mix,” he said.

The Facebook data center in Mesa will receive water credits for its operations from an agreement with Gila River Water Storage, LLC (GRWS), SRP’s joint venture with the Gila River Indian Community which provides renewable water in the form of long term storage credits to entities seeking additional supplies. The data center will procure these credits from GRWS water storage, which means that it will not use any water rights from Mesa’s municipal supply for operations.

Adding 500 MW of solar energy to SRP’s power grid to support the energy needs of Facebook’s data center in Mesa, as well as SRP small business customers, will save hundreds of millions of gallons of water per year than if the same amount of energy were generated by fossil fuel-burning resources, SRP said.

Here are additional details on the new projects:

West Line Solar

The first of the new solar plants scheduled to be commercially operational is “West Line Solar.” The 100 MW plant will come online in October 2022. SRP is partnering with AES Corporation to develop this solar resource, which will be located in the city of Eloy, part of Pinal County, Ariz.

West Line Solar will be 650 acres in size and construction is set to begin in spring of 2022. Facebook will receive 50 MW of solar energy from this solar plant, leaving 50 MW of available renewable energy that SRP will offer to residential and small business customers as part of its new solar offerings available later this year.

SRP and AES have worked together to bring online another 100-MW solar system, East Line Solar, as well as a 10 MW, 40 megawatt-hours (MWh) standalone battery-based energy storage system that helps inject power into the grid during times of high customer demand.

Randolph Solar Park

The next new solar plant to become commercially operational will be Randolph Solar Park, which is slated to come online in 2023. SRP is partnering with EDP Renewables to develop and operate this 200 MW solar park located in the city of Coolidge, Ariz., part of Pinal County, adjacent to SRP’s Randolph 230-kilovolt substation. Randolph Solar will span across 1,346 acres, and construction is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2022. Facebook will receive the full 200 MW of energy from this solar plant.

Valley Farms Solar

The third project, Valley Farms Solar, is expected to become commercially operational by December 2023. SRP has contracted with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources to develop this 200 MW solar plant located in Coolidge, Ariz.

The two companies previously worked together to develop and contract a 20 MW solar generation facility and battery storage system, the Pinal Central Solar Energy Center, and a 100 MW solar plant, Saint Solar, which began operations in 2018 and 2020, respectively. Additionally, SRP and NextEra have plans to develop two solar-charged battery projects totaling nearly 350 MW, Sonoran Energy Center and Storey Energy Center.

Valley Farms Solar will be 1,900 acres in size and construction will begin in the winter of 2022. Facebook will receive the full 200 MW of solar energy from this solar plant.

The remaining 50 MW of solar energy will be dedicated to small business and residential SRP customers, SRP spokesperson Erica Sturwold told Public Power Current.