When Rose Acre Farms, the nation’s second-largest egg producer, wanted to add sustainability and innovation to its North Carolina operations, it turned to its local electric cooperative and an idea was hatched: a microgrid with utility-scale solar energy.
The system—a 2-megawatt solar array, a 2.5-MW battery, backup diesel generation and a controller—is being facilitated by Pantego-based Tideland EMC and will serve the egg producer’s Hyde County facility.
“We are excited to work with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and Tideland EMC in creating a sustainable and efficient energy source for our Hyde County Egg Farm,” said Tony Wesner, chief operating officer at Rose Acre Farms. “Not only will this partnership help us reach our own sustainability and environmental goals, but it will also strengthen our local community by offering a more reliable and environmentally responsible power source.”
The co-op said the solution will give the egg producer the flexibility to meet its environmental goals while keeping power costs reasonable. The solar array is expected to offset up to a third of the farm’s total energy use.
NRECA worked with NCEMC and Tideland to deliver this microgrid. It is one of four ongoing battery projects involving five co-ops, NRECA and the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity that will yield valuable findings on energy storage. The others include Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association in Colorado, West River Electric Association in South Dakota, and Sandhills Utility Services in North Carolina.
Paul Spruill, Tideland EMC’s CEO and general manager, said the microgrid is helping build a brighter future for the surrounding community by making the grid there more flexible, resilient and efficient.
“This partnership is the direct result of the fact we are embedded within the local community and are keenly aware of needs and capabilities of our members,” said Spruill.
Rose Acre Farms owns the backup diesel generators, and North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association and generation and transmission co-op, will own and operate the solar array and battery. The G&T will also serve as the controller of the microgrid. Tideland EMC owns and operates the associated distribution system.
Spruill said the collaboration builds on lessons learned from other microgrid projects developed by North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, including a microgrid Tideland EMC helped build on Ocracoke Island.
“It also exemplifies electric co-ops’ long-standing commitment to supporting North Carolina’s agriculture and agribusiness industries,” he added.
Installation of the solar array and battery energy storage system should be done by the end of this year, and the microgrid controller is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2021, said Lisa Crawley, senior public relations specialist for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.
“We may see delays due to COVID disruptions, but all partners remain committed to the project and will work through setbacks as they materialize,” she said.
Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.