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Ameren expanding solar output in eastern Missouri

Ameren Missouri is increasing its solar capacity in the eastern part of the state over the next two years through partnerships with universities and local governments. 

Ameren began construction on a series of solar canopies on Southeast Missouri State University’s Cape Girardeau campus last month. The installation will make use of two university parking lots and will supply apprenticeships and construction jobs along with clean energy, according to Ameren.

“We are excited to work with Ameren Missouri to bring more renewable energy to southeast Missouri and provide educational opportunities to our students and community about this important topic,” Southeast President Carlos Vargas said. “This solar installation is a great addition to our campus sustainability efforts and demonstrates the commitment of the university and our entire Redhawk community has to a greener, cleaner future.”

Ameren projected the equipment will provide enough energy to power 130 homes annually. The installation is expected to be in service by July 2022. 

Ameren will also install a series of solar canopies over the Maryland Heights Community Center parking lot, with construction expected to begin next year. The canopies are expected to be in service in early 2023.

“Partnering with Ameren Missouri to bring more clean energy to Maryland Heights is a win for all of us,” Maryland Heights Mayor Mike Moeller said. “We also like the year-round weather protection for visitors and their vehicles.”

The project will be the second Ameren-operated renewable energy site in the city following the Maryland Heights Renewable Energy Center, which converts landfill gas into renewable energy. The facility opened in 2012 and has the capability to generate power for 10,000 homes a year, according to the company. 

Ameren started expanding its solar footprint earlier this year in St. Louis, teaming with Habitat for Humanity and ReStore, a location dedicated to repurposing donated goods, to construct the St. Louis Renewable Energy Center. The site began producing energy in August. 

The sites are part of Ameren’s Community Solar program in which the company installs solar infrastructure on existing land, buildings, and parking lots at no cost to property owners. The three sites will create local jobs and training opportunities.  

The move is the latest in Ameren’s effort to transition to clean energy by the middle of the century; the company committed to investing $8 billion in grid modernization, infrastructure upgrades, and renewable energy initiatives over the next five years. Ameren also plans to expand its hydro and nuclear generation portfolio and completely phase out coal-burning facilities by 2042.

Ameren has made several moves toward its renewable energy goals over the past year by expanding its wind generation cache and naming Gwen Mizell as its first chief sustainability officer. Mizell, who was also named Ameren’s vice president of innovation, will steer the company’s environmental stewardship and social impact efforts.

Other Missouri utility companies have made similar commitments to clean energy, with Evergy touting a 50 percent renewable energy rate, according to Senior Director of Government Affairs and Economic Development Jason Klindt. Evergy also advocated for a bill that will allow utilities to issue bonds to cover the cost of transitioning to clean power.