Ameren’s TAC Microgrid Seamlessly Integrates Distributed Energy Resources
The microgrid installation at the Ameren Illinois Technology Applications Center (TAC) near the University of Illinois campus in Champaign—designed, engineered, and constructed by S&C Electric Co. of Chicago—represents a state-of-the-art integration of wind, solar, natural gas, and battery storage into a project that is POWER’s Smart Grid Award winner.
“Seamless.” That’s the word that both Ameren Illinois and S&C Electric use, unbidden, to describe the microgrid demonstration project they developed in Champaign, Ill., near the University of Illinois campus.
The microgrid that S&C, a 105-year-old company that has long specialized in grid and power engineering, built for Ameren is the soul of the utility’s Technology Applications Center (TAC). The utility built the TAC and its microgrid on property it owns near the university, says Ameren in a press release, to test and demonstrate “monitoring and control methods for aggregating clean, renewable energy sources—wind, solar and natural gas—with advanced automation and battery storage.”
Ameren says the microgrid, which went into service earlier this year, “is one of the few in the world that operate at utility-scale voltages, between 4 kilovolts and 34.5 kilovolts, with multiple levels of control. It is the only known microgrid in the nation capable of seamlessly transitioning the power source for an entire distribution circuit from exclusively distributed generation sources to the traditional grid.”
Mike Edmonds, S&C president of U.S. business for the employee-owned, Chicago-based company, which designed, engineered, and installed the Ameren TAC microgrid, told POWER that the microgrid is “on the [macro] grid and off the grid seamlessly.” Other microgrid implementations, he said, must stop to adjust when they shift from grid connection to island operation. On the TAC microgrid, users “don’t know the difference,” a very neat trick. Switching from the big grid to the microgrid requires changes in grounding, inertia, frequency stability, and power quality.