Solar energy project up and running in Northeast Arkansas

Ted Qualls and Len Nall, along with Delta Farms, Inc., Southland Gin, Inc., Craighead Electric Cooperative Corp., and Today’s Power, Inc., unveil 2 MW of dual technology solar with on-site battery storage Friday.

Southland Gin, Delta Farms, Craighead Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power, Inc. (TPI) developed the first agricultural energy project in Arkansas combining two different solar technologies (fixed-tilt and single-axis tracking) plus on-site battery energy storage.

The entire project, consisting of three separate systems, is now operating on 14.59 acres of land in Jonesboro, transforming how the farming industry gets the power to produce. Designed to provide clean energy for both the Delta Farms and Southland Gin facilities, the system inevitably results in energy and operational savings over 20 years.

“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 of Southland Gin and Delta Farm. “Directly impacting our farms with positive economic development, the completion of these solar facilities is a testament to our sustainability initiatives which help us preserve our most precious resources as farmers: Air, Land, and Water. We’re proud to partner with Today’s Power and Craighead Electric on this innovative project.”

Unlike any other Arkansas-based renewable generation facility, this project is to include two types of solar technology and battery energy storage on site. Combined, the total solar system capacity is 2 megawatts (MW) paired with 6 megawatt-hours of battery storage.

1.2 MW of the project consists of solar modules mounted on a fixed-tilt system owned by Delta Farms, Inc. This portion of the project is capable of producing around 1,760,000 kWh annually. The other part of the project consists of an 882 kW sun tracking system or a single-axis solar tracking system that generates approximately 15 percent more electricity than stationary mounts for peak solar exposure. The sun tracking portion of this project is able to produce, on average 1,420,000 kWh which will be leased to Southland Gin from Today’s Power. In total this system is made up of 2,352 375W Panels.

Determining that solar was the right option for Delta Farms and Southland Gin, Craighead Electric saw this opportunity to help two cooperative members achieve their goals while attaining the goal of providing all Craighead Electric members with the lowest cost power available. If the electricity generated by the arrays exceeds demand, the electricity will be net metered to the Craighead Electric system or saved in battery storage systems on site. Owned and operated by TPI, Craighead Electric will be able to draw electricity stored in the batteries during peak use periods instead of having to buy electricity to meet demand.

Brian Duncan, CEO of Craighead Electric Cooperative said that this project demonstrates how integrated solar and batteries together can supply dischargeable electricity into the grid when needed. “We regard this project not only as a victory for Southland Gin, Delta Farms and Craighead Electric Cooperative, but for our entire membership,” he added.

Work on this “one-of-a-kind” system began in late November 2019, with construction of the system beginning in December and commissioning beginning in February. Although only announced because of the recent pandemic, the project was completed on schedule and a complete interconnection was established in late May under a multilateral contract between Southland Gin and Delta Farms, Craighead Electric Cooperative, and Today’s Power, Inc. (TPI).

“This project is especially rewarding to me because I was raised in this community and grew up farming as a member of Craighead Electric,” said Michael Henderson, President of TPI. “Helping the agriculture industry incorporate leading edge technology is so exciting. Partnering with quality entities such like Southland Gin, Delta Farms, Craighead Electric and Farm Credit provides a level of comfort that makes long-term contracts feasible. All things considered, this project will help improve the quality of life for residents in northeast Arkansas.”

This project is expected to lead to long-term cost savings for both entities (Delta Farms and Southland Gin) as well as a unique design that will bring benefits to all parties (Craighead Electric and their members).

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