Ameren Corp. completed a $5 million microgrid located at its Technology Applications Center (TAC) adjacent to the University of Illinois campus in Champaign, Ill.

The facility is one of the only utility-scale microgrids in the U.S. capable of serving live customer loads on an actual utility distribution feeder.

Ameren built the microgrid facility to test monitoring and control methods for aggregating renewable energy sources – wind and solar - and natural gas with advanced automation and battery storage.

Construction of the Ameren microgrid was completed in December 2016, followed by testing in the first quarter of 2017.

The Ameren microgrid operates at utility-scale voltages of between 4-kilovolts and 34.5-kilovolts, with multiple levels of control. It also is capable of transitioning 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 megawatt to live 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.

The Ameren microgrid can produce up to 1,475 kilowatts. The leased generation assets located on site include:

  • Northern Power Systems Wind Turbine – 100 kilowatts
  • Yingli Solar Array – 125 kilowatts
  • Caterpillar Natural Gas Generator – 1,000 kilowatts
  • S&C Electric Company Battery Storage – 250 kilowatts

Along with the microgrid advancements, Ameren Illinois will begin installing 83,000 smart meters at customer locations in Champaign County. These two-way devices will provide customers with energy use data and access to programs to reduce energy and save money.