Distributed Energy Resources

Illinois clears path for one of the first U.S. microgrid clusters

The Illinois Commerce Commission on Feb. 28 approved investor-owned Commonwealth Edison Company’s request to construct a full-sized, utility-scale microgrid in Bronzeville, a community located on Chicago’s South Side.  

As proposed, the Bronzeville Community Microgrid will interconnect with an existing, fully functional microgrid at neighboring Illinois Institute of Technology, creating one of the first microgrid clusters in the U.S., the ICC said.

The cost of the project is approximately $25 million. The U.S. Department of Energy has committed $5 million in federal grant funds for the project. 

The microgrid will distribute electrical service to approximately 1,060 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Bronzeville, including the Public Safety Headquarters of the City of Chicago, housing the Chicago Police Department, and a medical facility, allowing the facilities to remain operating when disconnected from the rest of the grid in the event of extreme weather, natural disasters, or cyberattacks, the ICC said.

ComEd said the microgrid is expected to be completed in 2019.

The ICC will require ComEd to submit reports to the commission on the value and cost benefit of the project, including annual reports on the status of the project over the next 10 years, a phase one report at the end of 2019, an initial metrics/cost benefit report in 2020 and a final report at the end of 10 years.

ComEd noted that 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, according to the utility.

ComEd said that the project builds upon its smart grid platform and a continuous effort to advance the design and performance of the electric system serving northern Illinois.

The first phase of the project will include 2.5 megawatts of load and require reconfiguration of an existing feeder and installation of battery storage and solar PV. It will directly serve approximately 490 customers.

The second phase of the project will add approximately 570 customers and an additional 4.5 MW of load and 7 MW of distributed energy resources, 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 utility said.

The microgrid will be a key component of ComEd's “Community of the Future” initiative in Bronzeville, where it is collaborating with residents to identify needs and opportunities to leverage smart grid technology and related services, the utility said.