Earlier this month, officials announced a major economic deal in Central Virginia. Facebook released their plans to build a $750 million data center in Henrico County. The facility will initially be over 1 million square feet, and eventually expand to 2.5 million square feet. At the center of this economic deal is a requirement for clean energy.
The company announced their pledge to rely entirely on renewable energy to generate the electricity the data center will need — 130 megawatts at full build-out, or the amount of electricity necessary to serve about 32,500 homes. The company will also develop advanced technologies that use external air instead of water to cool equipment and also increase energy efficiency to cool, heat, and ventilate the two buildings that will be part of the footprint.
To meet the company’s requirement for 100% clean energy, Dominion Energy plans to spend $250 million in solar power facilities across Virginia to power Facebook’s new data center. According to officials, this major economic deal would not have happened without the availability of clean energy.
But it isn’t just Facebook that is looking for renewable energy. Last year, a coalition of 18 companies — Microsoft, Walmart, Best Buy, and Ikea, among others — sent a letter to Virginia’s State Corporation Commission and elected legislators asking for “an explicit legal framework” to expand opportunities for them to purchase renewable energy from third-party sellers, as well as utilities.
That is why it is so critical to grow renewable energy in Virginia. A 2016 report by Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) found that 71 of the Fortune 100 companies currently have renewable energy or sustainability targets, up from 60 companies just two years ago. Of the Fortune 500 companies, AEE reports that 22 have committed to powering all of their operations with renewable energy, including Wal-Mart and General Motors. Access to a real 100% renewable energy product will help foster economic development by allowing Virginia to compete for businesses that deem renewable energy access as crucial to their supply chain, core values, and consumer and shareholder responsibilities.