They've Got the Power

Ameren Missouri workers install new power lines Wednesday, March 27, off Highway FF in Lonedell. The project involves the replacement of 28 utility poles that will give customers better service and reliability.

Lonedell and Luebbering residents will soon experience better electrical services as part of Ameren Missouri’s new smart energy plan.

The plan involves more than 2,000 electrical improvement projects statewide that will take place over five years, according to Lori Light, Ameren media relations manager. The Lonedell project is the first to take place that includes the replacement of 28 utility poles along a one-mile route on Highway FF.

New utility poles and thicker wires will bring a more reliable connection to more than 400 residents and Lonedell R-XIV School District. The project started earlier this month and is expected to be completed by May.

Gary Marquart, supervising engineer for the Meramec Valley Division, said Ameren employees recognized the need for the upgrades.

“Since this is a rural area, it’s not like you have Laclede Gas out here. It’s either they burn wood, they burn propane or they use electric, and the vast majority use electric heat in the wintertime,” he said.

Marquart added that electric heat loads are very heavy on the power lines.

“If anything happens in the line during the winter, it takes a very long time to restore service just because when you turn it back on, everybody’s furnace comes on at the same time,” he said.

“We realized that we needed to do something to provide capacity down here.”

With the project upgrades, the capacity level will double, according to Marquart. Additionally, there has been extensive tree trimming done, which “is a very significant factor when it comes to reliability,” according to Amanda Brittingham, director for the Meramec Valley Division.

When Ameren workers are making upgrades, a portion of Highway FF is closed off to one lane for both directions. In order to maintain safety for the workers and vehicles on the road, drivers may have to wait for their turn to go through.

“We know that it’s a little bit of an inconvenience, but we believe that the benefits will outweigh the little bit of inconvenience, so we’re very grateful and thank them for their patience,” Brittingham said.

Ed Guehne, supervisor electrical operations for the Meramec Valley Division, said the wait time for drivers to get through is minimal and customers are considerate of their work.

“They’re good about us being in their driveways and they understand what we’re doing,” he said.

Guehne oversees the power line crews and makes sure they have the materials and equipment they need, he said. It takes about three workers to install a new utility pole with an average time of 30 minutes.

“They’re moving along really well,” Guehne said. “The weather has been in our favor. We have guys who are working really hard.”

These power line upgrades are meaningful for Brittingham and Guehne as they grew up in Lonedell and have families that still live in the area. Brittingham said she was transferred to the Meramec Valley Division in January.

“It’s kind of cool to be back home and among my customers, and the folks that I grew up with and who I’ve known my whole life,” she said.

She added that she looks to her co-workers in completing the project.

“I’m just kind of enjoying sitting back and watching this to come to fruition. They’ve done all the hard work up to this point,” she said.

Ameren is investing approximately $400,000 in the project.

“It’s a good feeling to see these small communities benefiting because I think a lot of times our customers think these projects are just mostly in the city or metropolitan areas and that’s absolutely not the case,” Brittingham said.

“We are investing a lot of time and money to upgrade the grid, the circuits in the rural areas.”

These new upgrades should last 35-40 years.

“We really hope the community and our customers out here are as proud of this project as we are. It’s a big deal for this area,” Brittingham said.

New Energy Plan

Ameren Missouri is executing its customer-focused Smart Energy Plan to enhance reliability and provide smarter energy infrastructure and cleaner energy, all while keeping rates stable and predictable.

The plan includes more than 2,000 electric projects over the next five years, throughout the state, that will help reduce or eliminate outages and offer new tools to help customers manage their energy usage.

The plan also increases potential for business growth and job creation. The plan supports Ameren Missouri’s mission to power the quality of life for Missouri families and businesses, making our state an even better place to live and do business.