ComEd received a $4 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to design and deploy solar and battery storage technology within its planned microgrid demonstration project in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. This award will enable the most sophisticated solar project in the Midwest, while also helping ComEd and the communities we serve learn more about important technologies that will make for a more secure and green energy future.
A microgrid is a localized power system that can provide power to customers without having to rely on the main grid. Microgrids help improve grid resilience and security by lowering the impact of power outages due to severe weather, security, or other disruptions. They are also a potentially critical building block toward a clean and innovative energy future for Illinois and the nation, given their integration of renewable, distributed power generation.
Furthering ComEd’s industry leadership in pioneering new technologies that benefit customers, the microgrid demonstration project in Bronzeville – as well as the solar and battery storage it integrates – will be located next to the Illinois Institute of Technology’s microgrid and part of the first “microgrid cluster” in the world.
This demonstration project is an important precursor to ComEd’s proposed development, via its Future Energy Plan legislation currently under consideration in Springfield, of six microgrids in northern Illinois. Each of these microgrids will bring increased resiliency and security to critical public infrastructure.
“Distributed generation is the future of the electric grid,” said Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd’s president and chief executive officer. “The microgrid demonstration we are building in Bronzeville is a blueprint for other utility-owned microgrids around the country. These microgrids can benefit the public via significant distributed generation like solar to power critical facilities like hospitals, schools and, police & fire operations.”
SunShot Initiative funding allows for the creation of a microgrid-integrated solar-storage technology (MISST) system at ComEd’s planned microgrid demonstration site in Bronzeville. This new system will allow for the widespread use of low-cost, flexible, and reliable solar photovoltaic (PV) generation, as well as the use of battery energy storage systems.
Support for the ComEd proposal came from several Chicago officials.
“I want to commend ComEd for putting the City of Chicago on the vanguard of the next generation of technology that will increase our use of renewable energy and make us more resilient to whatever Mother Nature throws at us,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Chicago is a national leader in utilizing the technologies of tomorrow to create the jobs today, and this new initiative will help to keep us at the forefront of that effort.”
The Bronzeville microgrid demonstration project also provides a foundation for the creation of a “Community of the Future” in Bronzeville – a neighborhood in which the smart grid is fully leveraged to connect residents to each other and to the many valuable uses of smart grid technology, from energy savings to more energy choices to sensor-enabled lighting, parking and transportation applications. ComEd continues to engage Bronzeville leaders and organizations to refine and bring to fruition some of the many possibilities of a clean, innovative Community of the Future in this historic Chicago neighborhood.
“DOE funding for the development of microgrids in Chicago shows how important it is for the city to partner with companies like ComEd,” said Alderman Pat Dowell. “This initiative underscores the importance of Chicago as a leader in energy innovation for the future. We support ComEd in its efforts to develop microgrid programs that will help all Chicagoans.”
ComEd is working with several partners to bring MISST technology to its Bronzeville microgrid demonstration project, including Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), University of Denver, Argonne National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, S&C Electric and G&W Electric.
IIT professor Mohammad Shahidehpour agrees that microgrids offer significant benefits and highlight important opportunities for collaboration in Chicago.
“This award from the Department of Energy will continue the great relationship the faculty and staff of IIT have with ComEd and allow greater collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, and the other partners to help position Chicago as a hub for promoting energy sustainability and independence in the United States, said Shahidehpour, Director of the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation and Bodine Chair Professor at Illinois Institute of Technology. “This project is very important since no successful utility-scale practical implementation of coordinated solar/storage and microgrid systems on a real-life distribution system in the US (under interconnected and islanded conditions) has been reported.”
The award marks the second time in as many years that ComEd has received federal funding to pursue the development of microgrid technology. ComEd previously received a DOE microgrid award in 2014 to build a master controller for the coordination of microgrid clusters – a first-of-its-kind project globally.