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Ameren Missouri Proposes Solar Energy Farms For Three Rural Cities

A worker installing a solar panel.
Ameren Missouri
Ameren Missouri filed plans with the Missouri Public Service Commission on Monday to build three 10-megawatt solar installations in rural areas.

Ameren Missouri plans to install solar farms and storage facilities for three rural Missouri communities. 

If approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission, the $68 million project could provide solar power to as many as 10,000 residents in Utica and Green City, in northern Missouri, and Richwoods, 60 miles southwest of St. Louis. The three cities are at the end of 20-mile transmission lines and often experience long power outages.

The 10-megawatt facilities the utility aims to build next year would each have a battery that could power connected homes for several hours. That would help reduce the time the area is without power, said Kevin Anders, Ameren Missouri’s vice president of distribution operations and technical services. 

“If [outages] occur at all, it will just be a matter of minutes instead of four to five hours,” Anders said. “We can improve the [service] reliability of all those locations by having this solar storage energy option.”

Utica, Green City and Richwoods have experienced multiple lengthy power outages in the past five years during storms. The batteries could benefit about 2,000 residents in those areas, Anders said. 

For decades, the solar energy industry has been developing storage technologies, but installing storage facilities has recently become more affordable. Ameren’s project would hopefully lead to the construction of more storage facilities in Missouri, said James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri, a nonprofit group that advocates for renewable energy. 

“I think this will be good for the entire Ameren service territory,” Owen said. “This will be something you’ll see replicated in a lot of other places. You already see storage being done at individual households. I think Ameren could start putting it in individual neighborhoods, communities. We see this as the start of moving in that direction.” 

Liberty Utilities-Empire District in Joplin also plans to build solar energy storage facilities in its service area. 

The proposed solar and storage facilities are a part of Ameren Missouri’s efforts to increase its solar generation by 100 megawatts by 2027. The company plans cut 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions it produced in 2005 by 2050. 

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Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.