Stuttgart Rice Mill Plans Largest Commercial Solar/Storage Project


Stuttgart Rice Mill Plans Largest Commercial Solar/Storage Project
Producers Rice Mill Inc. of Stuttgart

CEO Bill Halter of Scenic Hill Solar in North Little Rock is a proud Stanford University graduate, but he wasn't too downhearted about Saturday's loss in "The Game" against the University of California.

After all, the former Arkansas lieutenant governor was planning to announce his biggest project yet as a solar developer.

Scenic Hill and Producers Rice Mill Inc. of Stuttgart announced plans for the largest commercial solar-and-storage plant in Arkansas, and it will rank among the largest in North America, Halter told Arkansas Business on Monday morning. The 26-megawatt DC solar plant will have 65,000 solar modules on 160 acres near the farmer-owned cooperative.

The project, including 40 megawatts of storage capacity, is a "terrific project," Halter said, expected to provide two-thirds of the power needed to meet the Stuttgart operation's electricity consumption. No price was revealed for the array.

"We project savings of more than $100 million on our electricity bills over the next 30 years," Producers CEO Keith Glover said in a press statement. "These savings will be passed along to our more than 2,000 hard-working farm family members."

The project is bigger than Aerojet Rocketdyne's 12-megawatt project by Silicon Ranch Corp. of Nashville, Tennessee, though smaller than Entergy Arkansas' 81-megawatt Stuttgart Solar Energy Center  just a few miles away. Entergy also expects to commission a 100-megawatt solar station early next year in Chicot County, and has planned another 100-megawatt array, combined with storage, near Searcy. That project, like Scenic Hill's, is pending PSC approval.

Construction on the photovoltaic project by Scenic Hill, ranked as the largest Arkansas-headquartered solar power developer by Solar Power World, is awaiting approval from the Arkansas Public Service Commission and will "move forward" as soon as it gets it, Halter said.

It is the first commercial project under Arkansas Act 464, which removed certain size limitations on solar arrays using the state's net-metering system, the process granting solar power producers credit for the energy they put onto the electric grid.

"With 26 megawatts, this project includes a very large amount of solar," Halter said, while Glover called it a "landmark project" in a proud tradition of members "improving the sustainability of growing and processing rice, while providing on the world's most important foods."

Producers, founded in 1943, processes more than 60 million bushels of rice each year, with sales of about $500 million in rice products annually, the company said.