Henrico County Solar

Dominion Energy Virginia has asked state regulators to approve a new rate schedule that would allow the company to purchase or build solar power facilities to offset electricity consumption at a data center proposed by Facebook Inc. in Henrico County.

The Richmond-based electric utility, operating as Virginia Electric and Power Co., has applied for State Corporation Committee approval of Schedule RF, a voluntary tariff it hopes to use that would give Facebook and other potential customers the option of having their electricity needs offset by renewable sources of power.

Facebook would voluntarily pay an additional rate for renewable energy, as well as Dominion’s standard electric rates. The price Facebook would pay for renewable energy would be subject to negotiation.


Dominion said its proposal would allow the company to develop solar power facilities that would generate an estimated 300 megawatts of electricity to serve the data center. Facebook and Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced in October that it would be built in the White Oak Technology Park in eastern Henrico.

Facebook intends to invest $750 million for a data center encompassing almost 1 million square feet in two buildings. Dominion has committed to invest $250 million to develop solar facilities to offset all of the project’s power needs with renewable energy in the form of “environmental attributes.”

“The commitment from Facebook is the first of what the company hopes will be multiple commitments of its kind, and the company is committed to respond to customers’ desire for additional renewable energy product offerings from the company, while also ensuring that such arrangements do not adversely impact and are in the best interests of customers generally,” Dominion said in the application it filed at the SCC on Oct. 23.

The SCC also received an application late last month from Pleinmont Solar LLC, a subsidiary of what the applicant calls “the largest private owner of operating solar assets in the United States,” to build 500 megawatts of solar facilities on 6,000 acres in western Spotsylvania County by the end of 2019. The company would build the project on 3,500 acres located between Catharpin and Old Plank roads, about 2 miles south of the Wilderness Battlefield.

The project would sell electricity it generates into the PJM regional wholesale power market to supply “green attributes” to companies that, like Facebook, want to offset their electricity consumption with power produced by renewable sources of energy.

Pleinmont is a subsidiary of sPower Development Co., which itself is a subsidiary of FTP Power, a limited liability company owned by Arlington-based AES Corp. and Alberta Investment Management Corp. FTP and its subsidiaries own projects that generate 1,300 megawatts of electricity from solar and wind. Pleinmont would build the first of seven projects, producing 75 megawatts of electricity by June 30, 2019.

In an application filed at the SCC on Nov. 28, the company said the project would “reduce the commonwealth’s reliance on the import of energy while achieving strategic growth in renewable generation.”

However, Dominion’s proposed renewable rate schedule would not allow customers to purchase their electricity from independent power producers rather from the public utility under current general service rates.

“These new renewable generation facilities will be system resources built to support all of the company’s customers,” Pridgen said Friday.

“Accordingly, the company will expect the Schedule RF customer to continue to be a full-requirements customer and to pay its share of the retail electric service costs, in addition to its Schedule RF charges, associated with these new renewable generation facilities” — at least for the term of any agreement reached with Dominion, she said.

Dominion said it is seeking a request for proposals to “identify potential solar projects” that it will analyze, along with potential sites the utility would develop “to ultimately determine the specific solar project(s) that the company will propose for commission approval.”

Facebook spokeswoman Melanie Roe said in a statement Friday that it is “working closely with Dominion Energy to identify renewable energy resources to power the Henrico Data Center.

“We disclose the energy consumption for all our facilities on an annual basis, and will also do so for Henrico when it is available,” she said. “We expect Henrico Data Center to be one of the most advanced and energy-efficient data centers in the world, featuring the latest in our Open Compute Project server, storage and network designs. The first building will come online in 2019 and the second in 2020.”

The data center would be the eighth built by Facebook, which is committed to ensuring that all new centers are powered by renewable sources of energy, based on tariffs such as the schedule filed by Dominion.

The application, scheduled for hearing at the SCC on March 6, does not identify specific sites that the utility ultimately would ask the commission for approval to build and recover those costs. Pridgen said the company expects the new solar facilities “to become commercially operational in 2019 and 2020.”

The company’s application says it intends for the new RF tariff to produce revenue that the company would credit to “all company customers” through future cost-recovery proceedings at the SCC.

“This incremental revenue stream is expected to reduce the costs associated with new renewable generation facilities on an ongoing basis and provide a benefit to the company’s customers, irrespective of their participation in Schedule RF,” the application states.

The SCC’s staff has posed 34 questions and requests for information from Dominion, including when the company expects to file for permission to build new solar facilities or recover the costs.

Pridgen said Dominion expects to file applications for those approvals in late March. However, the company said it would not be required to obtain SCC approval for “renewable facilities agreements” that it would negotiate with Facebook and other customers under the proposed rate schedule.

She said each agreement “involves the sale of the environmental attributes from one or more renewable generation facilities — and not the retail sale of electric energy.”

Original Article by By: MICHAEL MARTZ Richmond Times-Dispatch



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