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First solar plus storage facility opens in NEA

Southland Gin, Delta Farms, Craighead Electric Cooperative, and Today’s Power, Inc. “flipped the switch” on 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, Arkansas, 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. Combined, the total solar system capacity is 2 megawatts (MW) paired with 6 megawatt-hours of battery storage.

“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.

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.

“This project is especially rewarding to me because I was raised in this community and grew up farming as a member of Craighead Electric. Helping the agriculture industry incorporate leading-edge technology is so exciting. Partnering with quality entities such as 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,” said Michael Henderson, President of TPI.

This project will 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).