BP Plc said it has started construction of a 134-megawatt dc (MWdc) solar plant in Ohio that will sell power to tech giant Meta, the parent company of Facebook, pushing both companies closer to net-zero emissions.

Called Arche, the solar project in Fulton County is expected to generate enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 20,000 homes, BP said in a Jan. 10 news release.

“This agreement shows how companies can create jobs, invest in the U.S. economy, and at the same time support net zero ambitions and help the world reduce carbon emissions,” said Dave Lawler, BP America chairman and president. “It’s another example of BP partnering to accelerate change and becoming an integrated energy company—one that can help corporations, countries and cities decarbonize.”

The project, which is being developed by BP joint venture partner Lightsource BP across about 675 acres, is part of the energy company’s strategy to lower emissions and develop its low and zero-carbon businesses. The British major aims to develop 20 gigawatts (GW) of net renewable generating capacity by 2025 and 50 GW by 2030. It reported renewable generating capacity was about 3.3 GW in 2021.

BP boosted its solar assets in 2021 when it acquired 9 GW worth of solar development projects—mainly in Texas and the Midwest from 7X Energy.

Growing solar

Electricity generation from renewable sources in the U.S. has been soaring lately as the country seeks cleaner energy sources to slow global warming. Nearly 25% of utility-scale electricity generation in the U.S. came from renewables during the first half of 2022, up from 21% a year earlier, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

As coal’s share of electricity generation continues to decline, the combined share of utility-scale solar and wind generation is forecast to rise. EIA has projected that utility-scale solar and wind generation could grow from 16% in 2023 to 18% in 2024. Coal’s share of power generation could fall to 18% in 2023 and 17% in 2024.

The increase is forecast alongside a rise in renewable energy consumption. In the electric power sector alone, U.S. solar consumption could grow to about 1.7 quadrillion Btu in 2023 up from about 1.3 quadrillion Btu in 2022.

Meta plans to consume energy produced at Arche after sealing a power purchase agreement with BP.

“We appreciate bp’s partnership in helping keep our commitment to supporting our global operations with 100% renewable energy,” said Urvi Parekh, head of renewable energy at Meta. “In addition to adding new energy to the grid, we are proud that this project will bring additional jobs and investment to Ohio.”

Lowering emissions

The solar plant will create about 200 jobs during construction, according to BP.

Meta is targeting net-zero emissions across its entire value chain by 2030. It achieved net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions in its direct operations in 2020, the company has said, having lowered its emissions by 97% compared to 2017 levels.

Power generated at Arche, at full capacity, could avoid more than 155,900 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, BP said in the release. That is equivalent to 34,000 fuel-burning cars, it said.

The solar plant is scheduled to reach commercial operation in early 2024. It is being developed by Lightsource BP with McCarthy Building Cos.’ renewable energy & storage team as the main contractor. U.S.-based First Solar is providing solar panels for the project, while Nextracker is providing smart solar trackers.