(November 6, 2020)
Environmental and renewable energy advocates are criticizing a large solar project in Texas’ Permian Basin for powering oil and gas operations. The Prospero I development, which has a capacity of 379 megawatts, is being financed by Facebook and will power Shell’s fracking operations in the Permian, the critics allege.
Facebook invested in the project as part of its goal to reach 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2020. This goal does not require that renewables physically supply power to the company’s data centers and other operations. Instead, Facebook can invest in so-called virtual power purchase agreements (PPAs), which are offset against the amount of power the company uses. Using this mechanism, Facebook has invested in 2 gigawatts of clean energy that is already online, and over 5 gigawatts if projects under construction are included.
Critics of Facebook’s Texas project say this investment could do more harm than good. “This is definitely a real tarnish on Texas’s renewable success,” commented Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas, which advocates for clean air, water, and energy. “Oil and gas companies trying to green up their reputation in this way when in fact their actions are quite destructive to the environment and public health is ridiculous. It is disappointing that a company like Facebook would be involved in such a project.”
Metzger argued that using renewables to power oil production creates a major problem, adding, “We have had increased renewable development in Texas, but at the same time total emissions have actually increased and that is largely because of the Permian. So, we are taking one step forward, but two steps back.”