AES Ohio $20M smart operations center part of digital transformation

The new $20 million AES Corp. smart operations center will act as the nerve center for an increasingly digitized electric distribution grid, allowing some 90 employees at AES Ohio’s MacGregor Park offices in Dayton to monitor and analyze a nationwide network of electric generation assets.

“What our smart operations center does is take new digital tools that allows us to see and analyze our operations in new ways,” Kristina Lund, AES Ohio president and chief executive, said in an interview Monday. “And it’s going to help us utilize all of our assets in a more efficient way and bring more customers more benefits.”

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The new center is embedded in what has been and is AES Ohio’s MacGregor Park headquarters. AES purchased what was then DPL Inc. in 2011. Dayton Power & Light rebranded as AES Ohio last year.

“The building has been renovated from top to bottom,” Lund said. “We basically took it down to the studs. And it is now a collaboration space. You can see the technology that is embedded in every part of the space.”

Some 35 contractors were involved in the work, with Miller-Valentine overseeing the project.

The center will involve 30 jobs that are new to the company. The familiar operations center off Dryden Road in Moraine will remain open, an AES Ohio spokeswoman said.

The utility officially cut the ribbon on the center Monday, winning kudos from Gov. Mike DeWine and other state and local officials.

Caption
AES held a ribbon cutting on it's newly renovated, Smart Operations Center, Monday October 25, 2021. AES spent $20 million to renovate the old Dayton Power & Light building and move AES into the future. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

AES held a ribbon cutting on it's newly renovated, Smart Operations Center,  Monday October 25, 2021. AES spent $20 million to renovate the old Dayton Power & Light building and move AES into the future. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Caption
AES held a ribbon cutting on it's newly renovated, Smart Operations Center, Monday October 25, 2021. AES spent $20 million to renovate the old Dayton Power & Light building and move AES into the future. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

“The opening of the AES Smart Operations Center in Ohio — the first of its kind in the United States — will launch a new era of innovative energy solutions that will reverberate across America,” said J.P. Nauseef, JobsOhio president and chief executive. “This facility represents AES’ longstanding commitment to the digital transformation of the energy industry, positioning Ohio at the leading edge of smart grid technology and sustainable, reliable power generation.”

The center will help a utility that is increasingly intent on dealing with customers digitally. Before year’s end, AES Ohio is expected to start installing “smart meters” in area homes, a step in the unfolding of the company’s $267 million transformation of the area’s electric grid, embracing digital technology that is expected to allow two-way communication between the utility and its 527,000 customers.

With the meters in place — expected to be placed in the socket of the previous meter — readings and billing will be performed in an automated fashion. And those meters are supposed to give the company insights into power interruptions, allowing more precise and quicker responses to those outages.

Engineers and technicians will have the ability to turn on and off generation assets as needed from the MacGregor Park center, said Adam Kokoi, AES director of operations.

Kokoi explained how a two-level “operational excellence center” will permit remote operation of assets from coast to coast, with 25 operators working 24-7 when the space is fully operational.

“It is within this facility that we really have the ability to start and shut down different assets across the U.S., we have the ability to ramp up, ramp down, troubleshoot equipment and really control our assets,” Kokoi said. “Really, a critically important room for AES.”

“What is happening here is bringing people together, talented people, with creativity in order to create and move with innovation,” said Bernerd Da Santos, AES executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“The decision to invest in Ohio is a testament to the skilled workforce in the city of Dayton, Montgomery County and the region,” Lund said in a statement. “Our partnerships are a critical part of our ability to serve our customers in new and improved ways, and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, JobsOhio and the Dayton Development Coalition were key partners in bringing this innovative facility to the region.”

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