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Illinois Utility Installs Devices to Upgrade, Modernize Electric Grid

The devices re-route electricity when there is a problem, and minimize how many customers are affected by a power outage.

by Joseph Bustos, Belleville News-Democrat / February 1, 2017

(TNS) -- On Tuesday morning, large trucks reduced traffic to one lane along Bluff Road in Illinois' Signal Hill area as workers hoisted a 1,000-pound piece of equipment onto an electricity pole.

The gray device, called an IntelliRupter, was bolted in by a J.F. Electric worker. Later another crew is slated to come by to make sure the device used to help re-route power in the case of a power outage, is working correctly.

The installation is part of the ongoing work to upgrade and modernize the electricity grid, which was authorized as part of the smart grid or the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act that passed in 2011.

Senior Director of Division Operations for Ameren Illinois John Barud said about $400 million of the $650 million program has been spent so far.

Since 2012 Ameren has been installing storm-hardened utility poles, outage detection technology and stronger power lines as part of its grid modernization work, which has improved reliability by 17 percent, the utility said.

The devices, like the one installed on Tuesday, re-route electricity when there is a problem, and minimize how many customers are affected by a power outage.

“It’s virtually instantaneous,” Barud said. “Our customers will see a brief blink, but the communications between them is very fast.”

The devices send signals to each other, and to an Ameren dispatch center in Decatur so the utility can monitor any issues.

“When we have guys come out to troubleshoot, it will take less time to troubleshoot, so it will reduce the length of the outage for the customers that are out,” Barud said.

The outage sensors have helped Ameren restore electricity to an affected area 18 percent faster, said Brian Bretsch, an Ameren spokesman.

About 120 of the IntelliRupters have been installed in the metro-east from Alton to Columbia, including 42 in the Belleville area, Bretsch said.

Barud said Ameren Illinois previously installed another Intellirupter in the Signal Hill area to work with the one installed on Tuesday. Another is being installed in conjunction with a new substation being built to support the new commercial development near the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.

The substation is scheduled to be up and running in the spring and will meet the energy needs of the new Hofbräuhaus restaurant and brewery and hotel and conference center, which itself is under construction, but has no opening date scheduled. The substation will serve more than 2,000 customers in the area.

©2017 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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