Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

ComEd to pilot integrated solar powered microgrid cluster for Chicago

William Payne
February 3, 2016
The US Department of Energy has awarded Chicago and Illinois energy provider ComEd $4 million to develop a solar energy and battery powered microgrid in Chicago's Bronzeville neighbourhood. The pilot will trial the functionality of solar and battery power integration, and will also integrate with the Illinois Institute of Technology in what is being advertised as the first “microgrid cluster” in the world.

The aim of the project is to develop grid resilience and security and create building blocks toward cleaner energy for the US state of Illinois.

According to ComEd, the demonstration project is a precursor to the company's proposed development, via its Future Energy Plan legislation currently under consideration by the Illinois State Government, of six microgrids in northern Illinois. Each of these microgrids will be designed to 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 be designed to 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.

“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 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.”