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    Ameren Illinois is making electric infrastructure upgrades to improve reliability and performance of its energy delivery system in Wood River and Godfrey, with investments of $715,000 and $5.1 million, respectively.

    "Ameren Illinois will wrap up a three-year substation upgrade later this year in Godfrey," said Brian Bretsch, Ameren Illinois communications executive in the Collinsville office. "We have also added some smart switches (relays) to improve reliability in Wood River."

    So far, crews have installed six "IntelliRupters" in Wood River that are fully operational.

    "These automated and remotely controllable switching devices can sense the condition of the electric system and determine appropriate switching actions to reduce the number of customers affected by an outage," Bretsch said. "It works as a team with other switching devices to isolate the outage and reduce the length of outages. Last year, Ameren Illinois reported that IntelliRupter technology reduced customer outages in Illinois by an estimated 31,000 hours."

    That investment alone was $590,000, Bretsch said.

    Ameren Illinois also is adding advanced relays smart sensors in the Wood River substation near Sixth Street at a cost of about $125,000.

    "Relays are devices that continually monitor the condition of a line," he said. "We are replacing older relays with smaller, faster microprocessor relays. The new devices have advanced capabilities to communicate information about the health' of our system. When power outages occur, these smart devices also can provide detailed information on the type of problem and its location. This will help us dispatch crews more effectively for faster restoration times.

    Bretsch said that infrastructure upgrade will be in service in November.

    In Godfrey, the $5.1 million Clifton substation upgrade will increase its capacity to handle expected increases in load demand, now and in the future, he said.

    Bretsch broke down the phases of the substation work, as follows:

    • Phase 1 In 2012, upgraded to a 12-kilovolt transformer and added three feeders inside the substation at an investment of $1.6 million.
    • Phase 2 In 2013, installed 33 poles, 17,500 feet of power lines and 49 transformers at an investment of $1.7 million.
    • Phase 3 Installing 131 poles, 30,500 feet of power lines and 108 transformers by the end of 2014.

    "We're excited to implement another step of our long-range plans to fortify the electric delivery system in Wood River," said Gussie Reed, director of Division V operations for Ameren Illinois. "The new technology and equipment we're putting in today will help ensure that we can meet the evolving demands of our business and residential customers in the future."

    "Throughout Illinois, our customers are beginning to realize the benefits of a more modern grid," said Richard J. Mark, president and CEO of Ameren Illinois. "Projects like these in Wood River are improving service reliability, while creating jobs and stimulating the local economies."

    The work in Wood River and Godfrey is part of $3.5 billion the utility company is investing in improvements within five years to build a next generation energy delivery system and create jobs in central and Southern Illinois, Bretsch said.

    Throughout its service territory, the company is fortifying utility poles, installing "intelligent" switches and sensors, upgrading the natural gas delivery network and installing advanced meters. "The upgrades will improve service reliability and provide customers with information they can use to take control of their energy usage and costs," Bretsch said.

    From the beginning of 2012 until June 30, 2014, Ameren has hired 807 Illinois-based employees. Factoring in natural attrition, this hiring has resulted in a net increase of 471 employees supporting Ameren Illinois electric and natural gas service operations, he said.