Of the dozens of solar projects led by Michael Henderson as president of Today’s Power Inc., none are closer to the former Craighead County farm boy’s heart than a pioneering dual technology agricultural project dedicated today on his old home turf in Jonesboro.
TPI, of North Little Rock, partnered with Craighead Electric Cooperative, Southland Gin Inc. of Lake City and Delta Farms Inc. to develop a 2-megawatt array of solar generation capacity with battery storage that is expected to bring long-term savings to the gin and farming operation for two decades. Officials gathered to ceremonially “flip the switch” on Friday afternoon.
“I was raised in this community and grew up farming as a member of Craighead Electric,” said Henderson, who graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. ‘Helping the agriculture industry incorporate leading-edge technology is so exciting,” he added, describing Southland Gin and Delta Farms as the kind of partners who make long-term contracts feasible. “This project will help improve the quality of life for residents in northeast Arkansas.”
Work on the 2,350-panel project, which includes both fixed-tilt and single-axis tracking arrays and 6 megawatt-hours of battery storage capacity, will yield power savings for 20 years, a joint news release said.
The three separate systems will be on nearly 15 acres in Jonesboro, where construction began in December and commissioning took place in February, the release said, and an interconnection agreement was completed in May. Today’s Power will own and operate the solar development, Craighead Electric will be able to draw electricity stored in the batteries during peak use periods, and the gin and farm companies will reap savings on electric bills.
“This intriguing and innovative project has been under development since the last quarter of 2019, and we are excited to start to generate and harvest energy from the sun,” said Len B. Nall, owner of Delta Farms.” He called the project a boon to local economic development and “a testament to our sustainability initiatives, which help us preserve our most precious resources as farmers: air, land and water.”
Craighead Electric saw the project as a chance to help two cooperative members attain lower power costs while gaining a generation source to help offset summertime demand peaks. “We regard this project not only as a victory for Southland Gin, Delta Farms and Craighead Electric Cooperative, but for our entire membership,” said Craighead Electric CEO Brian Duncan.
Today’s Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. of Little Rock, the utility service cooperative owned by Arkansas’ 17 electric distribution cooperatives.