Farmer-owned cooperative Producers Rice Mill and North Little Rock-based solar power developer Scenic Hill Solar announced Tuesday (March 9) the Arkansas Public Service Commission has approved a 26-megawatt DC solar power plant with up to 40 megawatt-hours of energy storage capacity at Producers Rice Mill in Stuttgart. The project will be the largest commercial solar and energy storage facility in Arkansas and among the largest such commercial facilities in North America, according to a news release.
The project is expected to provide millions of dollars in economic development for the city of Stuttgart. It will be built on 160 acres and use more than 65,000 solar modules, or panels. The solar power plant will provide 67% of Stuttgart Rice Mill’s energy demand.
“We are thrilled at the approval of our innovative renewable energy project by the Arkansas Public Service Commission,” said Keith Glover, CEO of Producers Rice Mill. “We commend the commissioners and staff on their ground-breaking decision. We project savings of more than $100 million on our electricity bills over the next 30 years. These savings will be passed along to our more than 2,000 hard-working farm family members. 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.”
Scenic Hill Solar will develop and oversee the construction of the solar power plant for Producers Rice Mill. The $55 million project is expected to start operating in late 2021 or early 2022.
“Scenic Hill Solar is proud of our partnership with Producers Rice Mill on this landmark project, and we commend Producers Board and management team for their vision, drive and determination,” said Bill Halter, CEO of Scenic Hill Solar. “We thank the Arkansas Public Service Commission and their general staff for their careful implementation of Arkansas’ net metering laws. Similarly, we thank the Arkansas General Assembly for the passage of Act 464 two years ago as this project is the largest project approved under that path-breaking legislation. Scenic Hill Solar is also thrilled to 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. The Producers solar project will be the largest commercial solar power plant and battery storage system in Arkansas and will gain national attention for Producers Rice Mill and the state of Arkansas as leaders in renewable energy efforts.”
Producers Rice Mill Board Chairman Jay Coker said “we are delighted to improve our environment while reducing electricity costs for our members. Rice farmers have a proven track record of quantified positive results that reduce our impact on greenhouse gas emissions. 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 benefitting our farmer family members. This new solar power plant will allow us to reduce our energy usage by two-thirds from current levels.”
The plant will produce more than 44.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in the first year of operation and more than 1.22 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over 30 years. It is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 895,000 metric tons, which is equal to driving 2.2 billion fewer passenger vehicle miles, eliminating the burning of more than 986 million pounds of coal and providing more than 151,000 homes with electricity for a year.