With little fanfare, Utah has quietly risen to a near Top 10 national ranking in renewable solar energy production, a position boosted by yesterday’s announcement


Even with a population of roughly 1,600, the modestly sized city of Wellington, Utah took center stage this week in the state’s alternative energy marketplace as a utility-scale solar farm located there went live to help provide renewable electricity to the Meta data center in Eagle Mountain some 100 miles to the northwest.

New York City-based Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company announced yesterday that its substantial Carbon County-based solar farm named Graphite Solar had begun operations and was beginning to provide power to Meta’s Eagle Mountain data center.

During a more than one year process, work on the Graphite Solar project required over 270,000 hours of labor to construct and install

  • More than 257,000 solar modules, and
  • 1.5 miles of transmission lines.
Aerial view of the completed Graphite Solar solar farm in Wellington, Utah. Photo provided by Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company 28 July 2022.

When operating at full capacity, GREC’s Graphite Solar complex will produce 104MWdc / 80MWac (Megawatt direct current / Megawatt alternating current), which makes it the largest solar farm in the GREC portfolio throughout the United States.

Meta’s Melanie Roe, explained to me that the power provided by Graphite Solar equates to approximately 20% of the renewable energy that Meta has under contract for its Eagle Mountain data center.

Conversely, Harry Hansen, communications director for the Utah Office of Energy Development, told me that the largest utility scale solar farm presently in operation in the state tops out at 120MWdc, making the now operational Graphite Solar project one of the largest in Utah.

GREC has entered into a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with PacifiCorp, whereby alternative energy produced by the Graphite Solar complex is designated for Meta’s data center in Eagle Mountain.

Aerial view of Meta data center in Eagle Mountain, Utah. Photo downloaded from Facebook 28 July 2022.

{NOTE:  The contract was developed under Rocky Mountain Power’s Schedule 34 green energy tariff, which allows large customers to purchase renewable energy generated on their behalf.}


Meta’s Renewable Energy Plans for its Growing Data Center Network

From 2010 through 2019, Meta, nee Facebook, spent over $16 billion in data center construction and operations in the U.S. alone.

The company broke ground on the first phase of its Eagle Mountain data center in 2018, which today has grown to include 2.4 million square feet.

Meta illustration highlighting current and future Meta data center locations in the U.S. Image downloaded from the Meta website 28 July 2022.

According to Greenbacker CEO, Charles Wheeler,

“Large projects like Graphite will increasingly be necessary to meet the electricity needs of the technology economy and provide carbon neutral alternatives to traditional power sources. We’re thrilled to play a role in the ongoing positive impact that this sustainable infrastructure project will have on boosting local employment, supporting regional economies, and creating more reliable power grids.”

Meta has publicly stated that it plans to rely wholly upon renewable energy for its Eagle Mountain data center by the end of 2022.

It also plans to be water positive for its data centers by 2030, meaning they will produce more water than they use by the end of the decade.

Craziness!

According to the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration), Utah ranked 11th in 2021 among all 50 states in its amount of solar power generating capacity at 1,843 megawatts, aka 1.843 Gigawatts.

Graphic created by the author 29 July 2022.

Additionally, another 360 megawatts of utility-scale solar capacity is scheduled to come online in Utah in 2022, which places the Graphite Solar project at close to 29% of the state's projected solar production increase this year.

Number 11, huh? Didn’t know that.

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