Ameren Illinois has opened a new $3.3 million testing facility that will facilitate research and development of smart grid technologies. Ameren states that the Technology Applications Center (TAC) “will provide small businesses and entrepreneurs with the infrastructure and resources needed to test programs, technologies, business models and other smart grid-related energy improvements on a live grid.”
The TAC is an integral component of the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA), which the state Assembly passed in 2011. Through EIMA’s Modernization Action Plan, , Ameren Illinois is investing an additional $643 million over 10 years to upgrade the electric grid to make it more efficient and reliable.
Ameren Illinois president and chief executive officer Richard Mark, “The TAC will give promising businesses and entrepreneurs access to an on-grid testing facility to help take their innovations to the next level. We must continue to foster an environment of innovation if Illinois is to remain economically competitive and able to create jobs in the 21st century economy. We live in a technologically advanced world where people are connected like never before. Ameren Illinois’ commitment to build a smarter grid will help ensure that wherever and whenever power is needed, our system will be ready”
TAC is located near the University of Illinois (UI) Urbana-Champaign Research Park and the plan is for Ameren Illinois and the university to collaborate on researching smart grid-related technologies, testing and validation procedures, and test plan development.
Ameren reports, “The TAC features a substation and two distribution circuit feeders that will enable developers to test smart grid-related equipment by connecting to 69,000-and 12,000-volt systems on the utility’s energy distribution network. The facility can accommodate both utility-scale testing as well as residential products testing, which will include a simulated working kitchen with smart grid-enabled appliances as well as advanced meters which can be used to test smart grid-related devices.”
Professor William Sanders, who leads the largest of the UI smart grid research projects adds, “Academic-industry partnerships such as what we have with Ameren are essential to ensure that leading-edge research is adopted by utilities.”
The facility will provide an on-grid test environment to complement the university’s off-grid testing and simulation capabilities. Ameren Illinois opened a secondary testing site in Decatur in 2012 that provides companies access to larger utility system loads to perform equipment and systems testing.
Ameren Illinois provides energy to 1.2 million electric and 806,000 natural gas customers in a service area covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles.
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