Producers Rice Mill in Stuttgart is installing an uninterrupted source of electric power via a solar-plus-storage microgrid developed by Scenic Hill Solar of Little Rock and built by CS Energy and KORE Power Inc.
The project is the largest commercial and industrial solar project in Arkansas history and one of the largest microgrid projects ever in the U.S., according to news release about the project.
More: Read about Arkansas' boom in agricultural solar.
Producers Rice Mill, a cooperative, serves more than 2,000 American farmers who rely on the mill’s facility in Stuttgart to process, store and ship their harvests globally. Producers mills more than 40 million bushels of rice each year, an enterprise that requires a great deal of electric power.
“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, the mill’s CEO, said in a statement. “In addition, 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.”
A 20-megawatt solar array designed and installed by CS Energy will connect to a 41.2-megawatt-hour lithium-ion power storage facility. The arrangement will let the mill keep operating even during utility outages, the news release said. The energy storage system will enable the mill to be powered by the local grid, or if necessary, draw power from the solar installation during power service interruptions.
KORE Power’s microgrid controller system offers a rapid-response system designed to mitigate power quality issues and intermittent stoppages at the plant. The installation will also optimize renewable energy used by the mill, providing 67% of its energy needs.
The project was developed and is being built under the direction of Scenic Hill Solar, whose CEO, Bill Halter, is a former Arkansas lieutenant governor. “Arkansas is the nation’s leading rice producer, growing about half of the United States’ total crop, and Producers Rice Mill is a true farmer cooperative serving more than 2,000 farm family members in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Missouri,” Halter said in the release. “With this project we will be giving Producers the power it needs to ensure that these farmers’ products are getting to customers around the globe with clean, renewable power generated on-site and available on demand.”
Halter called Producers an “engine of Arkansas’ economy” and a model for commercial use of clean power for the nation.
CS Energy, a national provider of engineering, procurement, construction, and operational support for solar and energy storage projects, is building the array and its electrical infrastructure.
Jesse Lieberman, Director of Operations of CS Energy, said the Producers Rice Mill project stands out because its impact will be felt worldwide. “Designing and constructing a solar + energy storage system that ensures more reliable power helped us solve our customer’s challenges and ensures Producers can cleanly and reliably process their members’ harvest,” Lieberman said in a statement. “That’s good news for the farmers here in the United States, and it’s good news for consumers across the world.”
Gregg Noble, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Sales at KORE Solutions Inc., a subsidiary of KORE Power, said the KORE team will install an energy storage system and microgrid controller built at the KORE Solutions facility in Waterbury, Vermont, using KORE’s Mark 1 lithium-ion batteries and American-made EPC 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,” Noble said. “This is a fantastic example of a microgrid system helping an industrial producer overcome electricity challenges.”
Noble said KORE Solutions will monitor the system’s operation from its network operations center in Vermont and dispatch crews annually to support the microgrid and help the mill optimize the controller’s operations.