New solar + storage microgrid to aid Producers Rice Mill in Arkansas

Producers Rice Mill solar storage

Producers Rice Mill in Arkansas will soon have an uninterrupted source of clean power thanks to an innovative new solar + storage microgrid. Developed by Scenic Hill Solar and constructed by CS Energy and KORE Power Inc., the initiative is the largest commercial and industrial solar project in Arkansas history and one of the largest microgrid projects in the United States.

Since 1943, the Producers Rice Mill cooperative’s members — including more than 2,000 U.S. farmers — have relied on the facility in Stuttgart, Arkansas, to process, store and ship their harvest around the world. The facility mills more than 40 million bushels of rice every year.

“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. It will further our commitment to sustainability and deliver greater economic security as we continue our tradition of providing one of the world’s most important foods,” said Keith Glover, CEO of Producers Rice Mill. “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.”

The 20 MWac solar array designed and installed by CS Energy will be supported by a 41.2 MWh lithium-ion energy storage facility, allowing the mill to continue operations during periods of electrical curtailment by the local utility.

The energy storage system will allow the facility to be powered by the local grid or, when needed, draw power from the solar installation during interruptions in electrical service. The rapid response offered by battery storage and KORE Power’s microgrid controller system will mitigate power quality issues and intermittent stoppages at the plant. The installation will also increase renewable energy used by the facility, providing 67% of the facility’s energy needs.

The project was developed and is being built under the direction of Scenic Hill Solar, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“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,” said Scenic Hill CEO Bill Halter. “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.”

Producers Rice Mill processes a range of domestically grown rice products including long grain milled white rice, long grain milled brown rice, medium grain rice, parboiled rice, as well as rice bran, rice hulls and more.

“Producers Rice Mill is an engine of Arkansas’ economy, supporting industry across the region and providing food for the world,” added Halter, who also is the former lieutenant governor of Arkansas. “Giving reliable clean power to this facility can make it a model for industry around the nation.”

CS Energy, which delivers engineering, procurement, construction and operational support for solar and energy storage projects nationally, is building the solar array and associated electrical infrastructure.

Jesse Lieberman, director of operations of CS Energy, said the Producers Rice Mill project stands out because its impact will be felt across the globe.

“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. “That’s good news for the farmers here in the United States, and it’s good news for consumers across the world.”

Gregg Noble, VP of strategic partnerships and sales at KORE Solutions, a subsidiary of KORE Power, said the KORE team will install an energy storage system and microgrid controller built at the company’s facility in Waterbury, Vermont, using its Mark 1 lithium-ion batteries and U.S.-manufactured EPC inverters. Noble added that the KORE Solutions team will monitor the system’s operation from its network operations center in Vermont and will dispatch crews annually to support the microgrid and assist Producers in optimizing the controller’s operation over time to best support the facility’s needs.

— Solar Builder magazine



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