Biggest US solar-powered rice mill installed

Posted: 15 July 2008

As oil prices rise, and the technology for renewable energy improves, solar power becomes an ever-more attractive proposition. One latest example is the opening in California of the largest solar-powered rice mill in the United States.

More than 5,500 photovoltaic (PV) modules have been installed for a one megawatt solar electric system at Far West Rice Mills in Nelson, California. The system is expected to deliver 1,440,000 kWh a year - approximately 75 per cent of the plant's total energy needs.

The multi-million dollar solar project,provided by Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA, was installed by Pacific Power Management of Auburn, California. It qualifies for $1.8 million in rebates from Pacific Gas & Electric.

Solar panel array at US rice mill
Solar panel array at US rice mill
Solar panel array at Far West Rice Mills in Nelson, California.
Far West Rice, Inc. is a family owned and operated rice milling and marketing company located in Northern California's rice growing region. The company operates its milling facility in accordance with California Certified Organic Farmers Associations (CCOF) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic guidelines and is an active participant in the marketing of organically-produced rice.

The addition of a one megawatt solar electric system that uses lead-free solder PV modules, "underscores Far West Rice Mills' commitment to protect the environment and sustainable farming practices" the company says.

Mitsubishi Electric's high-strength, corrosion-resistant modules contain no lead solder, a technology the company introduced to North America in 2005. Instead of lead-solder coating for the cells, it has developed silver electrodes that offer superior weatherproofing and higher PV module conversion efficiency.

Welcoming the new solar plant, Gina Heng, Director of Sales and Marketing for Mitsubishi Electric's US photovoltaic division said that "Agribusiness shares our concern about the rising cost of energy and solar can provide predictable energy costs over the long-term."

Mitsubishi Electric is one of the world's largest manufacturers and providers of solar power technology. See: www.mitsubishielectricsolar.com