ComEd: Regulator okays 10-year microgrid pilot


ComEd has secured a greenlight from the Illinois Commerce Commission to construct a microgrid in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

The utility will use $5 million in grant funding won from the US Department of Energy to implement the pilot.

Joe Svachula, vice president, Engineering and Smart Grid Technology, ComEd, said: “The new microgrid project will connect with an existing microgrid on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, creating one of the most advanced clustered urban microgrids in the United States.

“By connecting with the IIT microgrid, we’ll learn how to integrate microgrids with renewable energy resources and how to maximise the value of the interaction between two microgrids. It’s an important step forward in our effort to develop a more secure, resilient and reliable distribution system in the future.”

Project deployment

The pilot will be implemented in phases with phase 1 including 2.5MW of solar capacity and an energy storage system integrated with the main grid. The first phase will connect 490 customers.

An additional 4.5MW of solar capacity and 7MW of distributed energy resources and 570 consumers will be added in phase two of the pilot.

Once complete in 2019, some 1,060 residential, commercial, and small industrial customers will participate under the pilot over a period of ten years.

The pilot is an effort by ComEd to explore and implement smart grid technologies to improve services to its customers.

The utility says the pilot is a key component of ComEd’s Community of the Future Initiative in Bronzeville, where it’s collaborating with residents to identify needs and opportunities to leverage smart technologies and services.

For instance, ComED is testing EV transportation service, off-grid wind and solar LED streetlights, outdoor interactive digital display technology providing community news, emergency alerts, and identifying solutions under the Community of the Future Initiative.

Anne Pramaggiore, CEO at ComEd, added: “The importance of grid security will only continue to grow along with our increasing reliance on electricity.

“This microgrid demonstration project will provide critical learnings on how to protect against and recover from disruptive events, including extreme weather, as well as physical or cyber-attacks. We’re glad to receive approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission and funding support from the DOE to move this important project forward and gain the valuable insights that it will bring to us, the state and the nation.”

Alderman Pat Dowell, reiterated: “The microgrid project complements Bronzeville’s long history of innovation.

“Our vision for our historic community is centered on sustainability and accelerating the adoption of smart technology and infrastructure. Grid security and support for renewable energy sources are essential to realising this vision and that’s what the microgrid will bring. The Bronzeville community looks forward to continuing a robust civic engagement process as we build out the components of the microgrid.”

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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.