Sweet Equity: Florida Crystals invests in On-Site Power at Rice Mill

June 1, 2023
The microgrid system includes a 360-kW solar array and a Tesla Megapack battery system at its Sem Chi Rice Mill in Belle Glade. The solar photovoltaic system consists of 895 panels and the battery system features a capacity of 1.8 MWh

Cane sugar producer Florida Crystals has installed a 360-kW solar array and a Tesla Megapack battery system at its Sem Chi Rice Mill in Belle Glade, Florida.

According to the company, the move is part of its commitment to expand its investment in renewable energy and work towards carbon neutrality.

The solar photovoltaic system consists of 895 panels and the battery system features a capacity of 1.8 MWh. The solar panels will provide power to the mill and charge the battery during the day, while the battery will supply power to the mill after dark.

This initial phase of the distributed energy project powers one of the rice mill’s two electrical meters and is expected to provide about 20 percent of the facility’s total energy needs. The system is estimated to reduce carbon emissions by 250 tons annually.

"The solar panels, and particularly the Tesla battery, provide reliable electricity throughout the day and night, ensuring continuous operation of the mill and the protection of our staple food products no matter what Mother Nature has in store," said Andy Sauber, Sr. Director of Sustainability at Florida Crystals.

Florida Crystals says this investment expands its commitment to renewable production, with over 80 percent of its energy already coming from renewable sources. The company uses its biomass as fuel to generate clean energy.

“The majority of the power for our operations already comes from the sun because our main fuel source is our own sugarcane fiber, which grows by converting and storing energy from sunlight,” Sauber said. “This new investment at our rice mill is literally making us even more solar-powered than we already are, but instead of storing the energy in our plants, we are utilizing a Tesla Megapack battery.”

The microgrid movement is making inroads with food production facilities such as bakeries and rice mills. Earlier this year, Producers Rice Mill in eastern Arkansas announced a combined solar-battery storage distributed energy system at the facility in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

Companies partnering on that installation included Scenic Hill Solar, CS Energy and KORE Power.

Last year, microgrid developer GreenStruxure and Bimbo Bakeries USA detailed a plan to install solar-storage systems at six of the baker’s facilities around the country. GreenStruxure is a joint venture of Schneider Electric and investment firm Carlyle Group.