Ameren Corp. has completed what the energy company is touting as one of the most technologically advanced utility-scale microgrids in North America.
The $5 million facility, located at Ameren’s Technology Applications Center adjacent to the University of Illinois campus in Champaign, Ill., includes a 160‐foot wind turbine, solar panels, and natural gas generators that can produce enough electricity to power nearly 200 local residential and commercial customers. Ameren built the hybrid microgrid facility to test monitoring and control methods for aggregating these clean energy sources with advanced automation and battery storage.
Ameren says its microgrid is one of the few in the world that operate at utility-scale voltages, between 4 kV and 34.5 kV, with multiple levels of control that seamlessly transition the power source for an entire distribution circuit from exclusively distributed generation sources to the traditional grid. This concept, known as “islanding,” enables Ameren to deliver more than 1 MW to live (paying) customers without experiencing an outage.
“Integrating microgrids onto our system can provide cleaner energy and a stronger, smarter grid capable of delivering the products and services to fit the needs of our future customers and the communities we serve,” says Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corp. “There is no better time than now to innovate and position Ameren for even better results in the years ahead.”
According to Ameren, the leased generation assets located on-site include a 100 kW Northern Power Systems wind turbine; a 125 kW solar array; two Caterpillar natural gas generators that can generate a total of 1,000 kW; and an S&C Electric Co. battery system that stores power from the generation sources and can supply 250 kW of energy for two hours. Construction on the Ameren microgrid was completed in December 2016, followed by testing in the first quarter of 2017.
“Our focus on building a next-generation energy delivery system has enabled Illinois to emerge as a national leader in smart grid innovation,” says Richard J. Mark, chairman and president of utility subsidiary Ameren Illinois. “As the technologies we are testing at this microgrid facility become more accessible in the future, our customers will be able to count on Ameren Illinois to help them safely install and cost-effectively operate distributed generation resources.”
Along with the microgrid advancements, Ameren Illinois says it has added new equipment and technology to reduce outages and improve overall reliability. This summer, the utility will begin installing 83,000 smart meters at customer locations in Champaign County. These advanced, two-way devices will provide Ameren Illinois customers with energy use data and easy access to programs to reduce energy and save money, according to the company.