Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

ComEd Chicago microgrid cluster approved

William Payne
March 1, 2018
The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has approved plans to construct one of the first utility-scale microgrid clusters in the United States in the Bronzeville neighbourhood on the South Side of Chicago. The Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) project which has received more than $5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will enable the study of how microgrids support the integration of clean energy onto the grid and increase grid security to keep power flowing even during extreme weather or a catastrophic event.

The demonstration microgrid project will be located within the Bronzeville neighbourhood on Chicago’s South Side, in an area bounded from 33rd Street to the North, 38th Street to the South, State Street to the West, and South Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive to the East. Bronzeville was selected following a comprehensive study to evaluate locations where a microgrid could be located. The study developed an overall resiliency metric for small sections of ComEd’s northern Illinois service territory and identified locations where a microgrid could best address both security and resiliency, with a focus on public good. 

The project will serve an area that includes 10 facilities providing critical services, including the Chicago Public Safety Headquarters, the De La Salle Institute and the Math & Science Academy, a library, public works buildings, restaurants, health clinics, public transportation, educational facilities, and churches.

The project builds upon ComEd’s smart grid platform and a continuous effort to advance the design and performance of the electric system serving northern Illinois. Phase I of the project will include 2.5 MW of load and require reconfiguration of an existing feeder, and installation of battery storage and solar PV. It will directly serve approximately 490 customers. Phase II of the project will add approximately 570 customers and an additional 4.5 MW of load and 7 MW of DERs, enough to meet the peak electricity demand of customers within the microgrid footprint and maintain service when the microgrid is islanded from ComEd’s grid. The completed project will serve approximately 1,060 residential, commercial, and small industrial customers.

The project will allow ComEd to take full advantage of work funded by two grants awarded by the DOE. This work includes developing and testing a microgrid controller that will control the cluster of the Bronzeville microgrid and the microgrid at IIT. A second DOE grant is focused on studying how large amounts of solar PV and batteries can be integrated into a microgrid.

The microgrid is expected to be completed in 2019 and its performance and impact, including a cost benefit analysis, will be studied over approximately 10 years. A broad range of metrics have been established to evaluate the project and its ability to positively impact the resilience of the energy system, the Bronzeville community and critical infrastructure.

The microgrid is intended as 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 grid technology and related services. Technology pilots planned or underway include an electric vehicle transportation service, off-grid wind and solar LED streetlights, outdoor interactive digital display technology providing community news, emergency alerts, way finding and free Wi-Fi. 

ComEd is currently conducting an Ideathon that exposes Bronzeville high school students to smart city and smart grid technologies and supports the development of skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Students will present final projects in April to a panel of judges and the teams will have the opportunity to win cash prizes up to $2,000.

“The importance of grid security will only continue to grow along with our increasing reliance on electricity,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd. “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.”

“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,” said Joe Svachula, vice president, Engineering and Smart Grid Technology, ComEd. “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.”

“The microgrid project complements Bronzeville’s long history of innovation,” said Alderman Pat Dowell. “Our vision for our historic community is centred 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.”