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Commercial, Finance, Industrial, Regulation, Sourcing Renewables  -  April 5, 2017

Nebraska utility revs up wind supply for Facebook

In celebrating the start of construction of its newest data center in Nebraska, Facebook cited a deal for wind energy from Omaha Public Power District as a key factor in its decision to locate there. 

According to a report from the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, the entirety of the data center's electric use will be attributable to wind energy supplied by the utility. Tom Furlong, vice president of infrastructure for Facebook, spoke about the deal at an April 4 news conference alongside the mayor of nearby Papillion,  Neb., and Gov. Pete Ricketts and other local and state officials. Reaching a deal with Facebook on the location of the site took years, according to state leaders. 

In a follow-up report, the newspaper said Omaha Public Power District's board in January approved a new rate structure for Facebook to utilize in order to meet its energy demand entirely with clean energy. Prior to that agreement, an OPPD customer could only arrange to obtain some of their power from renewables, the World-Herald reported. 

According to the newspaper: 

OPPD President and Chief Executive Tim Burke said he and the utility’s then-new head of economic development met with Facebook officials at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters in 2013 to start talking about how to land large, environmentally minded electric customers in Omaha. They met with other companies, too, and since the new rate was approved in January, other companies have taken notice.

The area is already home to a number of other data centers owned by companies such as Yahoo, Fidelity, Cabela’s and Travelers, the World-Herald reported, noting that Facebook's Furlong said during the event that the presence of those other facilities helped sell the location. The newspaper quoted Brett Illers, senior program manager for sustainability at Yahoo, as saying that the rate structure designed for Facebook is "evidence of a revolution in sustainable energy markets."

"Large customers must work with utilities on renewable energy, and we’re pleased to see OPPD shares this vision,” the newspaper quoted Illers as saying. "Yahoo has 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." 



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