Ameren utility looking to build solar plant in eastern Missouri's Montgomery County

Energy Associated Press

Ameren Missouri has asked regulators for permission to build a solar plant along a half-mile Interstate 70 stretch in eastern Missouri's Montgomery County.

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The utility, in its application to the Missouri Public Service Commission, said it wants to create a 15-megawatt solar plant that annually would produce an estimated 20,655 megawatt hours, which could power roughly 1,500 households each year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1LVrtcE ).

Ameren hopes to break ground on the 70-acre, nearly 48,000-panel project by October and complete it next year. It would be more than twice the size of Ameren's first utility-scale solar array in O'Fallon, west of St. Louis. The O'Fallon array began operating in December.

Ameren's renewable energy projects are largely driven by the state's renewable energy standard, which voters approved in 2008. It requires a certain amount of power to come from low carbon sources such as wind and hydroelectric while mandating a certain allocation for solar power.

A federal tax credit for renewable energy investment is expected to drop from 30 percent to 10 percent at the end of next year, and Bill Barbieri, who is Ameren's renewable energy chief, said the utility wants to take advantage of the larger credit while it's available.

The cost of the proposed Montgomery County solar plant hasn't been released. Barbieri said the utility still is negotiating with contractors.

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Other Missouri energy providers also are turning to solar power. On Wednesday in northeastern Missouri's Macon County, officials unveiled a 10,800-panel solar farm expected to generate enough power to serve about 300 homes.

That farm, which began producing electricity last month, was pressed by a partnership including MC Power, the Joint Municipal Electric Utilities Commission, Gardner Capital and the city of Macon.

Another groundbreaking ceremony for a proposed solar farm near Trenton is scheduled for next Wednesday.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com