Producers Rice Mill Inc. and Scenic Hill Solar of North Little Rock have regulatory clearance to build the state’s largest commercial solar power and battery storage system at the mill’s site in Stuttgart.
The Arkansas Public Service Commission approved the 26-megawatt solar plant and up to 40 megawatts of storage capacity for the project, which involves 160 acres of land and 65,000 solar modules. The system will provide two-thirds of the cooperative rice mill’s power load and spur millions of dollars’ worth of economic development in Stuttgart, the companies say.
“The Producers solar project is the largest commercial solar and storage project in Arkansas,” Scenic Hill CEO and former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter told Arkansas Business in a text message.
The rice mill will eventually own the project, Halter said, referring questions on financing to Producers Rice Mill CEO Keith Glover.
In a news release, Glover praised the PSC, which regulates utility activity in Arkansas, for blessing a project that the rice mill expects to save more than $100 million off electricity bills for the next 30 years.
“These savings will be passed along to our more than 2,000 hard-working farm family members,” Glover said. “This landmark project continues a proud tradition of our members improving the sustainability of growing and processing rice, while providing one of the world’s most important foods.”
In a statement, Halter praised the partnership with Producers Rice Mill and hailed its leadership’s foresight. He also praised the PSC for its “careful implementation of Arkansas’s net metering laws” and the state Legislature “for the passage of Act 464 two years ago,” noting that the Stuttgart power plant “is the largest project approved under that pathbreaking legislation.”
The project will “help support over 2,000 Arkansas rice growing farm families as they continue to extend their tradition of feeding the world while enhancing our environment,” Halter added, predicting national attention for the mill and the state in renewable energy circles.
Jay Coker, the mill’s board chairman, said the project will cut electricity costs while benefiting the environment.
“Rice farmers have a proven track record of quantified positive results that reduce our impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” he said. “We have worked hard for decades to be mindful of our impact on the environment. This is a testament of PRM being able to identify and pursue an opportunity that will accomplish our goals of being an innovative leader in conservation, participating in sustainable agriculture practices and embracing renewable energy, while at the same time benefiting our farmer family members. This new solar power plant will allow us to reduce our energy usage by two thirds from current levels.”
Producers Rice Mill, founded in 1943, processes more than 60 million bushels of rice each year, more than the individual state production in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri. It has sales of about $500 million in rice products annually.