The Tennessee Valley Authority and Facebook announced on Wednesday that the social media giant and public power provider will partner and build a 150-megawatt solar farm in Millington.
The solar farm will largely offset the electric demand of a Facebook data center in Gallatin, the companies said in a news release. Of its 150 megawatts, 110 will be accounted for by Facebook.
It is nearly impossible to track which electrons flowing across TVA’s seven-state footprint will actually power the Facebook data center, but the new farm allows the California-based company to say that it is not adding new carbon-burning electricity to TVA’s grid.
The project will take up somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400 acres, the companies said. Both Facebook and TVA touted the development as part of their respective efforts to rely less on carbon-based fuels for electricity.
“Bringing clean energy to Shelby County is part of our long-term community plan, and is critical to support our region’s sustainability strategy,” said Doug Perry, TVA senior vice president, Commercial Energy Solutions, said in a statement. “This project is more than a solar farm, it puts people to work, revitalizes communities, and makes our region an environmental leader.”
Urvi Parekh, head of Renewable Energy at Facebook, said,“This solar project, which is our third in Tennessee, will help us continue our commitment of 100% renewable energy for our global operations, while also bringing new investment and jobs to the local community.”
RWE AG, a Germany-based holding company, will build the $140 million solar farm in partnership with TVA, the news release said.
The development of a large solar facility in Shelby County by TVA could also have public relations benefits. Memphis, Light, Gas and Water, the city-owned utility and TVA’s largest customer, will soon go out for bids on its power supply and is considering leaving TVA.
One of the main reasons that some advocates for leaving TVA have cited is the ability to decarbonize Memphis’ future electric grid. Environmental groups have argued MLGW could have solar farms of its own to provide much of Shelby County’s electricity.
Samuel Hardiman covers Memphis city government and politics for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman.