OPPD Wins Deal of the Year Award for Attracting Facebook and Renewable Energy Projects

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Thousands of jobs are being created and over $1.6 billion invested in Nebraska as a result of Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) and local partners’ economic development efforts. Together, OPPD, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Sarpy County and the City of Papillion created a shovel-ready site along Nebraska’s Highway 50 corridor – a site that enabled them to recruit Facebook to the region. Facebook is currently in the process of building a 2.6 million-square-foot data center that will use 100% renewable energy, energy that will be supplied by the region’s newest wind farm – another project supported by OPPD. 

“Innovative partnerships and a collaborative approach were key to attracting Facebook to the region,” said Tim O’Brien, Director of Economic Development and External Relations at OPPD.

OPPD and regional partners knew they wanted to attract large projects to the Highway 50 corridor and that to do so, they would need to invest in creating shovel-ready sites and pro-business energy policies.

“We had tried and failed to attract Facebook to the Omaha metro, and specifically Sarpy County.  It wasn’t until our site preparation met up with OPPD’s innovative renewable power structure that we were able to land the single largest capital investment ever in our community,” said Andrew Rainbolt, Executive Director of Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation. 

OPPD worked with Facebook to develop Rate 261M, a crucial factor in their decision to build a data center in the area.  This gives large customers flexibility in how they meet their energy needs. The most unique feature of the rate structure is that it allows companies access to the market for the energy component of their bill, something that was important to Facebook as they meet their goals for 100% renewable energy. It also made it easier to attract Tradewind Energy and their nearly complete Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project, to Dixon County.

When an expansion of its Papillion Data Center is complete in 2023, Facebook will be increasing its annual energy purchase from 200 megawatts to 310 megawatts, something the Rattlesnake Creek wind farm will be able to supply while also providing renewable energy for other corporate buyers, including Adobe.

When Facebook first announced the project, CEO Mark Zuckerburg said, “We just announced that we're building our ninth data center in Papillion, Nebraska. It will be powered by 100% clean and renewable energy and will create thousands of jobs in the community over the next few years. To grow the market for the clean energy we need, we worked with the Omaha Public Power District to create a new renewable energy tariff (facebook.com/green) that will now be available to all companies.” 

Peter Freed, renewable energy manager at Facebook echoed these sentiments when he said, “We’re on a mission to connect the world, and we’re committed to powering this connectivity with the smallest footprint possible. Our goal is to reach 50 percent clean and renewable energy in our electricity supply mix for our data centers in 2018, and our work with OPPD brings us one step closer.”

Letha Tawney, Director of Utility Innovation at World Resources Institute (WRI) further said, “Just like our other data centers, the Papillion facility will be one of the cornerstones of our global infrastructure and will be built to be as sustainable and efficient as possible. It will be one of the most advanced and energy-efficient data centers in the world. OPPD has done the hard work of carefully evaluating their rates to find every value for the renewable energy buyer without shifting costs to the other customers. OPPD has shown that public power can meet the ambitious demand for clean energy from large customers, and we hope other public power agencies take up the example,” Tawney said. “The scale of the demand from corporate buyers is only growing.”

As a result of the collaboration between OPPD, regional partners, Facebook and Tradewind Energy, Papillion, Dixon County and all of eastern Nebraska is experiencing economic growth. Thousands of construction jobs have been created as over $1.6 billion is invested in these capital projects. Long-term jobs are being created to operate the data center and wind farm and, once operational, the wind farm will distribute $80 million in property tax and payments to over 100 landowners over the next twenty years. 

“Facebook continues to be an exceptional partner to work with, and we are excited by the significant economic and community impacts this project is bringing to both urban and rural Nebraska for many years to come,” said O’Brien. 

Mid-America EDC congratulates OPPD on these successful projects and on winning the Economic Deal of the Year Award. 


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