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Ameren Illinois has opened a new $3.3 million testing center to help facilitate research and development of smart grid technologies. According to the utility, 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 will give promising businesses and entrepreneurs access to an on-grid testing facility to help take their innovations to the next level," says Richard Mark, president and CEO of Ameren Illinois. "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."

Located west of the University of Illinois (UI) Urbana-Champaign Research Park, the TAC also provides an opportunity for Ameren Illinois and the university to jointly research smart-grid-related technologies and collaborate on testing and validation procedures. The facility will provide an on-grid test environment that complements the university's off-grid testing and simulation capabilities. The collaboration will be further enhanced by a fiberoptic link between the TAC and the UI power lab, which supports a number of grid research activities.

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 V and 12,000 V systems on the utility's energy distribution network.

In addition, Ameren says the facility can accommodate both utility-scale testing and residential products testing, which will include a simulated working kitchen with smart-grid-enabled appliances, as well as advanced meters. The utility 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 says the TAC is a key component of the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) passed by the General Assembly in 2011. Under EIMA, Ameren Illinois is investing an additional $643 million over 10 years through its Modernization Action Plan to make improvements to the electric grid.




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