Florida Crystals Corp., which owns Florida's only rice mill, is now converting sunlight to renewable energy for its operations via its 900-panel solar array and the first Tesla Megapack battery in operation in the state of Florida.

Prior to this investment, Florida Crystals was more than 80% powered by renewable energy companywide, which includes its agricultural and industrial operations as well as its corporate offices and fleet, by leveraging its sugarcane. Florida Crystals uses its biomass as fuel that powers its operations.

Florida Crystals is now expanding its investment in renewable energy. Its solar array and Tesla battery at its Sem Chi Rice Mill in Belle Glade are also moving the company closer to its goal to become carbon neutral.

According to Andy Sauber, senior director of sustainability. "The majority of the power for our operations already comes from the sun because our main fuel source is our own sugarcane 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."

The solar photovoltaic system and the Megapack—Tesla's utility-scale battery—work in tandem: the solar panels provide power to the rice mill and charge the battery during the day, and the battery then supplies power to the rice mill after dark.  

This first phase of the solar project powers one of the rice mill's two electrical meters and will supply approximately 20% of the total energy needs. The system is estimated to reduce carbon by 250 tons annually.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the solar panels and battery will also provide a power source to the South Florida rice mill, which supplies 90 million pounds of locally grown rice each year. Reliable power is critical to ensure continual operation of the silo fans that protect stored rice from moisture. The new system is especially critical in South Florida, because the end of the rice harvest season, when are storage silos are at full capacity, coincides with peak hurricane season, when there is a much higher likelihood of power shortages. The Megapack now eliminates the need for industrial-sized diesel generators, which would have been temporarily installed after hurricanes.

"The solar panels, and particularly the Tesla battery, provide reliable electricity throughout the day and night, ensuring continuous operation of the mill and the protection of our staple food products no matter what Mother Nature has in store," says Sauber.