Reenergizing the grid

Ameren Missouri continues its massive infrastructure upgrade in St. Charles County with a new $12.6 million substation

By Brett Auten

Earlier this year Ameren Missouri announced its largest energy infrastructure upgrade plan in the company’s 100-year history.

The Smart Energy Plan, which includes 2,000 infrastructure projects, is projected to improve reliability for customers and communities throughout Missouri over the next five years. As part of the Smart Energy Plan, the Research Park Substation Project is said to increase energy service reliability for nearly 40 commercial and industrial customers in St. Charles County. The $12.6 million substation will go in-service in late June. Ameren officials say that residential customers in the zip codes of 63368, 63304 and 63301 will also experience greater reliability in the county.

Ross Smith, of St. Charles, is Supervisor, Distribution Services for Ameren Missouri, said that as communities grow and economic development increases, substations are built to meet greater energy demands. Residential customers in the area will also experience greater reliability.

“The communities in this area, St. Charles County, Dardene Prairie, O’Fallon, Weldon Springs, they have commercial and industrial growth going on,” Smith said. “This substation is going to keep the existing customers with reliable service and serve the new customers that are moving in.”

Ameren, the state’s largest electric provider, is also boring under Highway 64/40 to connect the new Research Park Substation with the existing Weldon Springs Substation. The underground and existing overhead lines will provide two supplies of energy to the substation allowing for added reliability.

In April, switchgear was set into place at the new Research Park Substation site. Switchgear is the brain of the substation. They house a suite of smart technologies designed to detect and prevent problems and restore power more quickly. The switchgear, or control house, is delivered in two sections that total nearly 28,000 pounds.

Upgrades to the existing overhead line include new smart technology that will help reduce power outages and more quickly restore power in the event of a service interruption and new poles and wire will better withstand severe weather and high winds.

Smith said that Ameren is incorporating distribution automation technology in the operation, which could help reduce operational costs.

“The equipment out on the system serving the customer can sense problems, switch away from the problems and restore customers without a serviceman ever having to be dispatched to deal with the issue.”

Officials are counting on the new smart grid sensors, switches and self-healing equipment will more rapidly detect and isolate outages and reduce the number of outages and speeding power restoration when service interruptions occur and a stronger, more secure energy backbone will better withstand severe weather.

Along with all of the smarter, automated equipment, 12,000 new utility poles for storm hardening, many fortified with composite materials, are designed to better withstand severe weather.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos 

Cover-Power1 A 120-ton crane hoists a section of the new Research Park Substation as a team of Ameren Missouri workers direct a piece into place.

Cover-Power2-3 Ameren Missouri’s Smart Energy Plan will transform Missouri’s energy grid and change how customers receive and use energy.