Today, for many states in the US, integrating distributed energy resources (DERs) is becoming increasingly important, and communities are creating plans that look closely at the needs of not only community sustainability, but also the needs of critical service providers, such as police, fire, and water. For example, a city might choose to add solar panels to the roof of city hall and have batteries installed in the basement to ensure that the crisis control room for the city is functional in the event of a power outage. In fact, most recently during the wildfires that swept through Southern California in 2017, there were reports of the fire hydrants losing water pressure due to the failure of critical fire pumps because of intermittent power outages. These two scenarios, one hypothetical and one very real, begs the question: How can utilities and communities be prepared to withstand extreme weather and other power outages while still successfully integrating DERs?
In February 2018 the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved Commonwealth Edison’s (ComEd) plan to construct a microgrid in Bronzeville on Chicago’s South Side.
The Bronzeville community will use its local microgrid to ensure energy availability to critical service providers, such as police, fire, and water. ComEd and Bronzeville are leading the charge on resiliency and transformation, which will end up serving as an ideal example of how local communities can collaborate with their utility to not only establish grid resiliency and reduce their environmental footprint, but also ensure that energy availability to critical service providers is not interrupted in the case of an event.
Bronzeville was selected for this project following a comprehensive study by the ICC.
The dual-pronged project is focused on developing advanced microgrid controller logic that can handle complex, grid-supportive situations as well as a parallel effort to explore the potential for large volumes of photovoltaic (PV) solar on microgrids when paired with stationary storage.
The project is split into two phases:
Phase 1: The project will include 2.5 MW of load, require reconfiguration of an existing feeder, and installation of battery storage and solar PVs. It will directly serve approximately 500 customers.
Phase 2: The project will add more than 550 customers and an additional 4.5 MW of load and 7 MW of DERs, which is calculated to be enough to meet the peak electricity demand of customers within the microgrid footprint and maintain service when the microgrid is isolated from ComEd’s grid. The complete project is expected to serve more than 1,050 residential, commercial, and industrial customers.