One of the biggest rice mills in the United States soon will have its emergency power backup provided by a carbon-neutral solar and battery storage microgrid.
Project partners on the Producers Rice Mill microgrid project in Stuttgart, Arkansas, are calling it one of the largest on-site commercial and industrial (C&I) solar+storage installations nationwide. The 20-MW solar and 41.2-MWh lithium-ion energy storage will combine to ensure the mill with power during interruptions in grid power.
Scenic Hill Solar, CS Energy and KORE Power have partnered on the development and construction of the microgrid. Overall, it can provide up to 67 percent of the on-site facility electricity needs.
“We project the microgrid will deliver millions of dollars in savings on our electric bills over the next 30 years, and those savings will be passed on to more than 2,000 hard-working farm families,” Keith Glover, CEO of Producers Rice Mill, said in a statement. “It will further our commitment to sustainability and deliver greater economic security as we continue our tradition of providing one of the world’s most important foods.
Arkansas is the top rice producer in the United States cultivating close to 200 million bushels per year over nearly 1.3 million acres. Nearly all of the state’s rice farming is done in the eastern region stretching from the Missouri border to Louisiana.
In operation since 1943, the Producers Rice Mill plant mills more than 40 million bushels per year from the production of those 2,000-plus farmers who toil in the fertile Arkansas Delta. Also in Stuttgart is Riceland Foods, largest miller in the state.
Overall, the U.S. is the world’s 11th leading nation in rice production mainly behind Asian producers such as China, India and Vietnam, among others.
“Producers Race Mill is an engine of Arkansas’ economy, supporting industry across the region and providing food for the world,” Scenic Hill Solar CEO Bill Halter said. “Giving reliable clean power to this facility can make it a model for industry around the nation.”
Scenic Hill Solar is project developer with construction underway. CS Energy designed and installed the 20-MW solar, while KORE Power is contributing the microgrid controller system to help facilitate rapid response and mitigate power quality issues from the intermittent renewable energy.
“Our solar power plant, battery storage and microgrid will allow Producers to deliver power to the utility grid during times of grid stress, providing a huge benefit for other utility customers,” Producers CEO Glover added.
KORE’s energy storage and microgrid controller system are being built at the KORE Solutions facility in Waterbury, Vermont, using Mark 1 lithium-ion batteries and U.S.-manufactured inverters.
“With the recently passed federal legislation supporting microgrid development, we’re excited to work with Scenic Hill and CS Energy to deliver this project,” Gregg Noble, vice president of strategic partnerships and sales at KORE Solutions, said in a statement. “This is a fantastic example of a microgrid system helping an industrial producer overcome electricity challenges.”
The C&I sector, which includes agriculture as well as food and grocery industries, is increasingly adopting renewable and microgrid technologies to provide on-site power and offset or eliminate carbon-heavy diesel generator emissions. Bimbo Bakeries USA, for instance, contracted Schneider Electric spinoff GreenStruxure to deliver a series of microgrids for six of its facilities in California.
Municipal infrastructure, transportation hubs, indoor farming and cultivation plants also have signed up for microgrids with companies such as Scale Microgrids, Enchanted Rock and Engie, among others.
Even the U.S. Army’s Climate Strategy calls for a microgrid at every installation by 2035.
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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 15-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).
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