JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Ameren Missouri installed an underground smart grid system in downtown Jefferson City that aims to reduce the length of power outages.
This comes after an unusual amount of storm events across the state, including the EF-3 rated tornado that tore through the capital city in May.
In 2019, Ameren responded to 35 storm events in the State, said Ameren spokesman Chip Webb. He said the average is around 15.
The eight new switch gears are connected in a grid system and communicate with each other when there is a problem or damage. When an incident occurs, the gears are able to re-route power to isolate the problem and provide power from other sources.
"Before the system was in place, what might have been a several hour outage is reduced to minutes or even seconds," Webb said.
The project, which started in 2019, includes all of downtown Jefferson City, which includes the state, city and county office buildings, the capitol, along with all of the businesses and homes in the area.
Webb said if this system would have been in place during the tornado, customers in the downtown area would have had power restored much sooner.
He said there were some reliability issues in the area in the past, but this new project aims to curb those concerns.
"We did have some problems in the past," Webb said. "This is really being put into place to address those issues and really going forward provide better reliability for our customers."
Webb said this project is funded through the Smart Energy Plan that was passed in 2018 through Senate Bill 564. He said so far, Ameren has been working on more than 900 projects which are a part of the plan across the state.
Mayor of Jefferson City Carrie Tergin said the tornado really showed the importance of having reliable power in the downtown area, as several emergency centers, including the police department, were located in the area covered by this project during the disaster.
"We know that reliable power is critical for a safe community," Tergin said. "We relied on that especially during the tornado to keep things up and running and how important it is to have that source.
Owner of Haute Salon in downtown Jefferson City, Brandon Scott, said a long power outage can really hurt business.
"It cripples and stops the salon operation," Scott said.
He said he has dealt with power outages in his downtown location in the past.
"I wouldn't say it happens very often," Scott said. "But when it does, I mean even if it happens once a year, it's a day of work waiting until Ameren fixes the issue."
He thinks if the new system can reduce the time the power is out, it would be great for his business.
"That would be huge," Scott said, "That would give us enough time to take a pause and hopefully get things back up and running in no time."