Special Utility Rate Enables Facebook to Locate 100% Wind-Powered Data Center in Nebraska

At a press conference on April 4, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) joined officials of Papillion, Nebraska – a city of 20,000 people located just outside Omaha, in Sarpy County – to announce that Facebook will build a data center there on a 144-acre site. The new data center will be 100 percent powered by wind energy – and according to a report by Data Center Knowledge, Facebook said it could not have taken on the Nebraska project without a new renewable energy tariff program designed with the help of the Omaha Public Power District.

The social media company will take advantage of OPPD’s rate 261M, which will help them to procure 100 percent locally sourced renewable energy for their new data center, “while [paying] fair and reasonable rates that cover OPPD’s fixed costs, including generation and system capacity, transmission and administration,” the power district said.

OPPD has been able to offer this special rate because of its access to Nebraska-based wind generation. When the 400-MW Grand Prairie Wind farm began operation last October, OPPD made plans to purchase 100 percent of its production by June 1 of this year – moving closer to its goal of having 30 percent of its generation come from renewables by 2018, according to a report by The Wire.

To qualify for the rate, a customer must be large enough to meet certain criteria, such as requiring a minimum of 20 MW of demand for 161-kV service and 200 MW of demand for 345-kV service. A ramp-up period of 18 months would be allowed before that minimum usage requirement kicks in.

The Nebraska facility will be Facebook’s ninth data center overall and its sixth in the United States.  The social media giant joins several other major organizations that already have data centers in Sarpy County – among them, Yahoo, Fidelity Investments, and Travelers Insurance.

Brett Illers, the senior program manager for Sustainability at Yahoo, said the new rate will make it possible for their facility to go 100 percent renewable, as well.“There is a revolution happening right now in sustainable energy markets,” he said. “Large customers must work with utilities on renewable energy, and we’re pleased to see OPPD shares this vision with its adoption of Rate 261M. Yahoo has long advocated for these types of solutions, and we look forward to adopting this rate to help bring our growing Nebraska facilities to complete renewable energy consumption.”

Partners were instrumental in the efforts to attract large companies to the county.  The state partnered with the Greater Omaha Chamber, Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation, Sarpy County, City of Papillion, Metropolitan Utilities District, and Omaha Public Power District.

“Partnerships like this, with the state, local communities, and utilities like OPPD, cannot be overstated when it comes to economic impact for our region,” said Omaha Public Power District CEO Tim Burke.  “By collaborating with one another and looking for solutions that serve the best interests of our entire community, we create tremendous value.  For example, OPPD was able to offer an innovative rate solution that would provide flexibility in how companies reach their renewable energy goals.  It’s an example of how we work to meet the needs of large customers, particularly those who seek more renewable energy.”

Facebook officials expect the 970,000- square-foot Papillion campus to be online as early as 2020.

“We’re thrilled to have found a home in Nebraska and to embark on this exciting partnership,” said Tom Furlong, VP of Infrastructure at Facebook, at the press conference on April 4.  “Everything here has been as advertised — from a committed set of community partners and strong pool of talent to the opportunity to power our facility with 100 percent renewable energy.  The Cornhusker State is a great place to do business.”

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