Spotlight

Agricultural Microgrid Integrates Renewable Biogas, Solar and Energy Storage for Increased Local Resilience and Sustainability


Partners in an innovative effort to develop a microgrid at a Harnett County hog farm held a dedication ceremony on Friday, May 4, celebrating completion of the project, which will help ensure the resilience and reliability of the electric grid, promote environmental sustainability and support the surrounding community.

Butler Quality Pork and Renewable Energy Farm, South River Electric Membership Corporation and North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives joined forces to create a microgrid that integrates renewable biogas, solar generation, energy storage and other components to produce electricity that can be used to power the farm and nearby homes. The microgrid is capable of operating on its own, or it can remain connected to the main grid and supplement conventional sources of electricity.

The project will bring additional reliability to an already very reliable system in the local area. It also provides an opportunity to test the integration of new grid resources and technologies and serves as a case study for how agriculture and electric utilities—two of North Carolina’s most important industries—can work together to enhance the state’s rural communities.

Lillington-based Butler Farms is a member of South River EMC, a local electric cooperative in nearby Dunn that serves more than 43,000 consumer-members in Harnett, Cumberland, Sampson, Johnston and Bladen counties.

“South River EMC has a long-standing partnership with Butler Farms, and we have taken great interest in their pursuit of cleaner farming techniques with less negative environmental impacts as well as the implementation of several renewable energy resources,” said Catherine O’Dell, Vice President of Member Services & Public Relations at South River Electric Membership Corporation.

This project represents the first time that a member’s existing energy resources have been integrated into a microgrid developed by the state’s electric cooperatives.

Electric cooperatives are rooted in our state’s rural areas and are dedicated to finding innovative energy solutions like this that will not only provide reliable power, but also encourage economic development, promote environmental sustainability and improve quality of life in rural communities,” said Joe Brannan, CEO of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “This project helps us achieve all those goals by allowing us to collaborate with an agricultural partner to implement new technologies that leverage the opportunities and challenges faced by both industries.”

Another cooperative microgrid is in operation on Ocracoke Island, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Developed through a partnership between Tideland Electric Membership Corporation and North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, the project is a similar effort to bring reliable power, sustainability and other opportunities to one of the state’s most remote communities.

More information about the cooperatives’ microgrid efforts can be found at sremc.com/content/butler-microgrid and ncelectriccooperatives.com/energy-innovation/microgrids/.

The Butler Farms microgrid includes batteries and a controller to integrate and manage the microgrid components.

The microgrid also incorporates a biogas generator.

Joe Brannan, CEO of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, speaks at the dedication event.

South River EMC CEO Chris Spears speaks at the dedication with the microgrid components in the background.

Tom Butler of Butler Farms stands in front of the microgrid’s solar panels.

 

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