Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois, based in St. Louis, completed the final span of its ambitious Illinois River Project in December 2020, bringing improved energy grid reliability, increased transmission capacity, access to lower-cost electricity from renewable sources and local job creation to Midwestern families and businesses.
The 375-mile, 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line was laid in nine segments between Palmyra, Mo., and Sugar Creek, Ind. At one of the project’s three river crossings, workers constructed 490-foot towers (the tallest towers in Ameren’s system) that are strong enough to withstand an F2 tornado. Helicopters were used to help construct towers and install transmission lines efficiently while reducing impacts to landowners. The project also involved the creation or expansion of 10 substations, as well as the rerouting or upgrade of approximately 30 substations and 30 transmission lines.
“I think the thing that I’m gonna remember most about the project is obviously the size and the scope,” said Darren Ratliff, principal engineer for the Illinois River Project, in a video on Ameren’s website. “But the number of people I got to work with who are just really dedicated to what they do, their careers mean a whole bunch to them. And just to learn from them, it was just an opportunity of a lifetime.”
The $1.4 billion Illinois River Project is part of a coordinated, multistate group of transmission projects, called Multi-Value Projects (MVPs), being developed by Midwestern transmission companies, which in addition to Ameren, include ITC Holdings, American Transmission Co. MidAmerican Energy and Dairyland Power Cooperative. These projects are designed to update and modernize the region’s energy grid, improving reliability and better integrating renewable energy sources to meet public policy goals for clean energy.
The project was approved in 2011 by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc., a regional transmission organization based in Carmel, Ind., along with 16 other MVPs.
Ameren also completed two other MVPs in recent years: the Spoon River Project in Illinois in February 2018, a 44-mile, 345-kV transmission line, and the Mark Twain Transmission Project in 2019, a 96-mile, 345-kv transmission line. All three of its MVPs used newer monopole designs to reduce ground-level impacts.
"Our country's future energy security and sustainability depends on a strong transmission system to enable the transition from coal to renewable energy," said Shawn Schukar, chairman and president of ATXI, in a Jan. 6 press release. "The Illinois Rivers Project is an important component to help deliver clean, affordable and reliable energy to communities across the Midwest and ensure the grid can accommodate ever-increasing renewable resources."