FACEBOOK

The Facebook logo on an Apple iPhone in Washington on March 21, 2018. 

Campbell County’s first solar farm will help power Facebook’s growing presence in Virginia.

Apex Clean Energy, the owner of the Altavista Solar, announced Thursday it has executed a power purchase agreement with the social media giant for a portion of the 2020 project.

The 1,200-acre solar farm was green-lighted by the Campbell County Board of Supervisors in September 2018. It will be located near the intersection of Bedford Highway and Bishop Creek Road, about four miles outside of the town of Altavista.

Facebook has poured significant resources into the commonwealth in recent years. In 2017, the company invested $1 billion to build a data center in eastern Henrico County and has since devoted an additional $750 million to nearly double the facility. The center, which stretches across 300 acres, is expected to support more than 200 jobs when construction is completed.

Melanie Roe, a spokesperson for Facebook, said the company has set a goal to reach 100% renewable energy by 2020.

“We are always looking for new renewable options to support our operations in Virginia,” she said Thursday. “In 2011, Facebook was one of the first tech companies to commit to supporting its operations with renewable energy. In 2018, we reached 75% renewable energy for our operations. We believe that renewable energy is not only good for the world and for communities, but it also makes good business sense.”

The announcement was made by way of an Apex news release sent Thursday.

The agreement between the two companies provides Facebook with a 61.6 megawatt portion of the project, which will become operational next year.

The facility is estimated to produce a total of 80 megawatts of energy, which is enough to power 15,000 homes, or about two-thirds of the residences in Campbell County.

“The project will generate tax revenue and local spending as well as create jobs — economic impacts that will benefit the Altavista area and the Campbell County community. With Altavista Solar, Campbell County is establishing itself as a leader in clean energy across the Commonwealth and the region,” Blaine Loos, Apex Clean Energy development manager said in an email Thursday. “Over the past two years, Apex has formed strong relationships in Campbell County as we have developed the Altavista Solar project. Altavista Solar is honored to have received so much support from the local community, from the dozens of community members who came out to public meetings to the unanimous approval of a Special Use Permit from the Board of Supervisors. We look forward to the many years of clean energy generation to come in Campbell County.”

Apex is not selling the project to Facebook but Facebook will be buying the power that the project produces. The power will help support Facebook’s operations across the state.

“Facebook is a clear leader in driving the transition to a new energy economy and working to lay the foundation for other companies, large and small, to achieve significant carbon reduction goals with cost-competitive renewable energy,” Mark Goodwin, president and CEO of Apex Clean Energy said in the release. “We’re thrilled to once again partner with Facebook at Altavista Solar, expanding Apex’s track record of fulfilling corporate clean energy demand as the private sector escalates its efforts to decarbonize the grid.”

The Altavista Solar project will be Apex’s largest solar project to date and the company’s first renewable energy facility on the East Coast.

Altavista Solar will generate approximately 200 full-time jobs during construction and over $1.8 million in local tax revenue, the release states.

At the end of its 35-year lifespan, the land is expected to return to 1,200 acres of field and forest.

Facebook’s partnership with Apex comes just seven months after Dominion Energy announced it would dedicate power generated from six new solar energy plants to the social media giant’s vast data centers in Virginia and North Carolina.

Staff reporter Sarah Honosky contributed.

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

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