WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. — The Sem Chi Rice Mill in Belle Glade, Fla., which is owned by Florida Crystals Corp. and is the only known rice mill in the state, will now be using a 900-panel solar array and a Tesla Megapack battery to power its operations.

According to the company, the solar array and utility-scale Tesla battery will work together in tandem, meaning the panels will power the rice mill and charge the battery during the day for later use after dark. As part of the first phase of a larger solar project, these joint energy sources will power one of the rice mill’s two electrical meters and supply approximately 20% of the facility’s total energy needs, reducing an estimated 250 tonnes of carbon annually in the process. Not only does the Megapack remove the need for industrial-sized diesel generators, which are temporarily installed after hurricanes, but also it makes the rice mill the first in the state of Florida to use the battery in operation.

The joint energy sources also will act as a reliable power source to the rice mill, which supplies 90 million lbs of locally grown rice each year and enough to feed four million people annually. According to Florida Crystals Corp., having reliable power ensures continual operation of the silo fans that protect stored rice from moisture. The system is especially important for a South Florida mill because storage silos are usually at full capacity at the end of the rice harvest season, which also coincides with peak hurricane season when the likelihood of power shortages is much higher, the company noted.

“Our solar project is an amazing complement to how Florida Crystals is already powered,” said Andy Sauber, senior director of sustainability at Florida Crystals Corp. “The majority of the power for our operations already comes from the sun because our main fuel source is our own sugar cane fiber, which grows by converting and storing energy from sunlight. This new investment at our rice mill is literally making us even more solar-powered than we already are, but instead of storing the energy in our plants, we are utilizing a Tesla Megapack battery.”

Prior to this move, renewable energy already powered more than 80% of the company nationwide, including agriculture and industrial operations as well as corporate offices and fleet. Florida Crystals Corp. said sugar cane is one of the most effective plants at capturing carbon and using it to grow food since it produces more valuable plant fiber (or biomass) than any other crop. The biomass is then used as fuel to generate clean energy that powers the company’s operations. Sem Chi Rice Mill’s switch to solar energy also helps the company reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral, the company said.