Facebook's Data-Center Landlord Strikes Deal to Add Solar Power


by Noah Buhayar and Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. is boosting its clean-energy efforts with a deal to help run a Virginia data center where it leases space with solar power.

Digital Realty Trust Inc., which operates the facility, agreed to buy about 80 megawatts of solar capacity from a project that SunEnergy1 expects to complete in North Carolina later this year. The social-media giant will get all of the associated renewable-energy certificates from the project, according to a statement Thursday from Digital Realty.

The deal is the most recent example of how companies’ demand for clean power is driving innovative solutions for arranging it. Facebook is among the technology titans that are intent on powering all of their operations -- including power-hungry data-centers -- with solar and wind energy. While the company arranges renewable energy for its own facilities, doing so has been harder at colocation centers like the ones operated by Digital Realty.

Related: Corporations More than Doubled Commitment to Renewable Energy in 2018

“You’re pretty much renting space, so you don’t control the relationship with the utility or the energy supply,” said Bobby Hollis, director of global energy and site selection for Facebook. “It’s always created a lot of complexity for tech companies like ourselves.”

For Digital Realty, a $22 billion real estate investment trust, the deal represents another way it can entice customers to lease its space. Nine of the company’s 20 largest customers are aiming to run their operations entirely with clean energy, said Aaron Binkley, head of the real estate investment trust’s sustainability initiatives.

“We read those tea leaves and said, ‘Look, this is something that’s of value to our customers,’" Binkley said.

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