From left, Illinois State Sen. Chris Belt; East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III; Richard Mark, chairman and president, Ameren Illinois; Teresa Haley, president of the Illinois branch of the NAACP; and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, break ground at the site of the new Ameren Illinois East St. Louis Solar Energy Center. IBJ photo/Dennis Grubaugh
Ameren Illinois officials gathered Tuesday morning with state and local leaders to formally break ground on a $10.2 million solar energy facility in East St. Louis.
The 2.5 megawatt East St. Louis Solar Energy Center will produce enough electricity to power 500 homes, officials said.
The measure was made possible by legislation passed by the state last year.
Among those gathered to speak at the occasion were state Sen. Christopher Belt, D-Swansea, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, Ameren Illinois Chairman and President Richard Mark, East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III and Illinois NAACP President Teresa Haley.
Mark said the power-generation facility is the first to be owned and operated by Ameren Illinois in 25 years.
The project is going up on 17 acres Ameren owns next to East St. Louis Senior High School in the 4600 block of State Street.
It is expected that the site will in part become a learning center for the area students to become familiar with solar power and potential future jobs.
Blacked-owned businesses are playing a role in the construction, which the mayor said is significant for the p0pulation of his community, which stands to gain from an emerging industry.
Mark said: “Every facet of the construction and operation will be representative of the community where the facility is located.”
Area contractors Mason Landscaping, Terra 5 Construction, Guarantee Electrical Co., and Azimuth Energy will be using local labor to build the center.
Some 40-50 construction jobs are anticipated. Some $50,000 is expected to be generated in annual property taxes, and diverse labor participation is set at 27 percent.
The center should be operational by early 2023.
Kern said the project is the latest good news for St. Clair County, which is now seeing at least $400 million in economic development. The majority of that is for the drone manufacturing facility being built at the Boeing facility at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah.