Solar power
9:58 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Ameren Solar Energy Center Up And Running

Ameren's solar energy center in O'Fallon.
Ameren's solar energy center in O'Fallon.
Credit Ameren Missouri

 Updated 12/4/14

Ameren's solar energy center in O'Fallon is now in service. The 19-acre operation includes 19,000 solar panels and is currently generating six megawatts of power to the company's electrical grid.

According the Ameren's 20-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), submitted to the Missouri Public Service Commission on Oct. 1, the company intends to build a second, larger solar energy center in 2016.

Our original story from 1/13/14

Ameren is planning to add solar power to its energy portfolio.

The utility announced Monday it will begin construction of a solar energy center in O’Fallon, Mo., this spring. Ameren says the 20-acre site will be the largest investor-owned solar plant in the state.

Officials estimate it will produce 5.7 megawatts, or enough to power 650 homes a year.

CEO and President Warner Baxter acknowledges that’s just a tiny slice of the power generated by Ameren, which serves 1.2 million customers.

"In the bigger picture, this is a very small step in terms of diversifying our portfolio, but it’s an important step," Baxter said. "Because we can then see how this utility-owned solar project not only works, but also how we can supply a diverse supply of energy to our customers in the future."

A voter referendum passed by Missourians several years ago requires utilities to get at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2021.

The utility emphasizes the new facility will help them learn how to harness solar before building bigger facilities in the future.

"We’re looking at how are you going to be able to handle a system this size that could literally cut out on you in fairly short order when you have some cloud cover come through or some element of shade," said Bill Barbieri, Ameren Missouri’s director of renewable strategy and generation.

The facility will be on-line by the end of the year.

The company is still collecting bids on the solar panels and officials say the projected cost will be between $10 and $20 million.

To follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman