News Local/State

Ameren Experiments With Microgrid In Champaign


David Mercer/Illinois Public Media

Since December, Ameren Corporation has been operating a small, independent power grid on the south side of Champaign that uses solar panels, a wind turbine and two natural gas-powered generators to power more than 190 homes in the area.

Ameren’s microgrid just east of Neal Street and north of Windsor is a working laboratory designed to teach the company how to use renewable power alongside more traditional power sources and how to run a small grid capable of operating independent of the larger power grid.

Warner Baxter is Ameren’s CEO. He said during a tour today (Wednesday) that microgrids can keep power on for their customers if a storm or other event has cut off access to the larger grid.

 “I think you’ll see more microgrids in the future, whether it’s five, 10, 20 years. I think the applications for those who want greater levels of reliability, greater levels of resiliency, those will make sense.”

Ameren Illinois President Richard Mark says the military is talking about potential advantages of microgrids. Factories are possible users, too.

Baxter says power is more expensive to generate at Ameren’s microgrid than elsewhere. But he expects those costs to come down.

There are other microgrids operating around the country and in Illinois. The Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, for instance, has its own.