The Sandoval County Commission approved a resolution at the June 28 meeting that would issue $275 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds that would go to building an 1,100 acre solar farm.
The resolution to issue the bonds, which would benefit all five school districts in Sandoval County, passed 5-0.
“Industrial Revenue Bonds are basically a contract between taxpayers and a governmental entity,” Rob Burpo, the county’s financial advisor, said. “We can’t give tax paying entities free stuff. So what they do is they will build this whole facility and then turn around and lease it to Sandoval County. Sandoval County doesn’t pay taxes. For us to take this land and solar panels, we’re going to charge you. And what we’re going to charge is called Payment in Lieu of Taxes. It’s the same thing we do with Intel.”
The new solar farm, the NMRD Data Center III (AKA TAG), would be run by PNM and would be the third solar farm in the county supported by Industrial Revenue Bonds. TAG would be built on land within the Rio Rancho School District, which results in a higher portion of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) being paid to the county from PNM going to RRPS.
The five school districts receive a total of 38% and Sandoval County receives 62% of the PILOT payment. RRPS would get 22.64% of the PILOT payments. Cuba would get 7.27%, Jemez Valley 4.64%, Bernalillo 3.20% and Corrales would get 0.11%.
While it’s unclear what the electricity produced by the solar farm would be used for, Burpo said the solar farm could eventually be used to power the Facebook Data Center in Los Lunas.
“They have not disclosed it yet but my guess is that it’s going to be the Facebook facility down in Los Lunas,” Burpo said. “Conversations have led me to believe that is the case but we’ll have to wait for them to confirm that.”
District 2 Commissioner Jay Block raised issues with Facebook getting breaks from PNM for the deal.
“Last time we did this in 2019, Facebook got a sweet deal of about 75% off the power,” Block said. An ordinary, average, nice guy, he’s not getting a sweet deal is he? No, he’s not from PNM. Facebook, they’re getting treated a heck of a lot better than the average New Mexican here because they’re getting this subsidized. it just really upsets me that these big corporations get these really sweet deals when the average New Mexican, the average Joe Bag of Doughnuts doesn’t get the same love that the big corporations get.”
Block also questioned the return on investment for Sandoval County. The PILOT is still being negotiated but Burpo said the county could potentially generate hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from the payments on a property that now generates just $2,500 per year in property taxes.
“If I’m getting $2,500 for a piece of property that is not usable and if I can now be getting $100,000, $200,000, $300,000, maybe more,” Burpo said. “But if I go from $2,500 to say $300,000, that’s your return on investment.”