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Ameren opens applications for solar generation facilities at ‘community hubs’


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Ameren Missouri has opened applications for organizations wishing to host solar generation facilities. 

Applications for the Neighborhood Solar Program — a direct result of 2018 legislation — are open to nonprofits, schools, and other non-residential Ameren customers considered a “community hub” with space — such as on rooftops, open land, or parking lots — for solar panels. Ameren plans to spend at least $14 million on the project. 

“We are looking at it as more than just clean, renewable energy, which is really important. We’re looking at it as how we can partner with communities and community leaders and how can have more of an impact beyond just energy,” Matt Forck, vice president of community, economic development, and energy solutions at Ameren Missouri, told The Missouri Times.

Officials said the application process “will move quickly.” Applicants will be scored on a variety of factors, including total installation cost, amount of solar generation possible, ties to workforce training and development, and neighborhood benefits. 

Forck said Ameren wants to partner with applicants that can provide a greater impact on the community aside from just renewable energy. For example, installation at schools could provide an educational component or colleges could have a work-study impact. 

Initial installation sites — from anywhere in the state — can be chosen as soon as December and construction could begin in early 2020, Ameren said. 

Officials predicted seven sites will be picked initially. The total number of sites built will depend on a variety of factors, including construction costs. 

Ameren Missouri will be responsible for constructing and maintaining the solar generation facilities. 

Forck said the program was born from customers asking to be more involved with implementing solar energy. And while this program is not open to residential customers, others can take part in its Community Solar programs

The Neighborhood Solar Program is just one piece of Ameren’s five-year, multi-billion dollar Smart Energy Plan for the Show-Me State. It’s a direct result of SB 564, controversial legislation signed into law last year. 

The bill, which was the subject of heated filibusters in the state Senate last year, accelerated smart energy infrastructure, provided $5.3 billion in capital investment, and included a $1 billion for wind generation projects. It allowed companies to recoup costs for grid improvements and implemented certain rate provisions. Opponents expressed concerns over whether it would make it easier for utility companies to raise rates on customers, among other things. 

Earlier this week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its annual scorecard ranking the states. Missouri tied for No. 30 with Idaho and Tennessee in 2019. ACEEE noted Missouri has gone up in the ranking, citing Ameren’s Smart Energy Plan.