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ComEd Completes One of Nation’s First Neighborhood Scale Community Microgrids in Bronzeville on Chicago’s South Side

Microgrid to seamlessly integrate renewable energy, battery energy storage into the grid, providing enhanced power resiliency to approximately 1,000 area customers

CHICAGO, May 24, 2024--(BUSINESS WIRE)--ComEd today joined leaders from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the City of Chicago and the community of Bronzeville to mark the completion of the Bronzeville Community Microgrid (BCM) – one of the nation’s first neighborhood scale community microgrids. The new technology was ceremonially switched on at the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA’s) Dearborn Homes property, which supports the project with energy generated by rooftop and ground-mounted solar systems. The BCM was funded, in part, through DOE grants.

"The electric grid plays a key role in powering lives for our customers and communities, rain or shine, and we’re committed to deploying cutting edge technologies that will harden the system against storms, severe weather and cyber threats," said Gil Quiniones, ComEd President and CEO. "The Bronzeville microgrid plays an essential role in preparing communities for an equitable clean energy transition and will deliver important benefits to boost power resiliency for over 1,000 customers on the City of Chicago’s south side. Thanks to the DOE and countless community partners who have given feedback through the design and testing process, we are thrilled to switch on the Bronzeville microgrid and to leverage new and emerging tech to enhance the experience of our customers here in Chicago and across northern Illinois."

In addition to approximately 1,000 area customers, Bronzeville houses a high concentration of critical infrastructure, including the Chicago Police headquarters, making grid resiliency a high priority. In 2025, the BCM will be connected to the microgrid at the nearby Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to create one of the nation’s first utility operated microgrid clusters, enabling a sharing of resources and enhanced resilience to grid disturbances.

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"This project is the culmination of nearly a decade of work with the Department of Energy, ComEd, and Bronzeville investing to make this a reality," U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said. "Researchers from Argonne National Lab and the Illinois Institute of Technology were tasked with bringing the technology for this microgrid to life, and we now have a more resilient, self-sufficient, and cleaner grid. I’m happy to celebrate this achievement with the community and all the dedicated people who worked hard to make this microgrid a reality."

Defined as a small power grid with electrical boundaries, a microgrid can operate when connected to the larger electric grid and as an "island" when there’s an interruption on the main grid. It draws on distributed energy resources (DERs) to serve customers within the microgrid footprint. The BCM is powered by 750 kilowatts (kW) of solar photovoltaic from the rooftop and ground-mounted solar installations at Dearborn Homes plus 500kW/2 MWh of battery energy storage.

"As Illinois moves towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future, we must always be conscious of if that progress includes communities that have historically faced disinvestment—and this ComEd project exemplifies the joint prioritization of those two goals," said Governor JB Pritzker. "The Bronzeville microgrid will add stability to the power infrastructure of the Bronzeville neighborhood and sets a model for future projects that serve local communities in innovative ways."

"We are proud to see the Bronzeville Community Microgrid come to fruition, setting a new standard for energy resiliency and sustainability in our neighborhoods," said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. "This project not only strengthens our infrastructure but also ensures that communities like Bronzeville are at the forefront of Chicago's equitable clean energy future."

"The Bronzeville Community Microgrid is an innovative, forward-thinking sustainable solar project. It has a tangible effect on the Chicago Housing Authority’s operations budget for Dearborn Homes, where these rooftop and ground-mounted arrays are generating about 10 percent of the annual electrical usage across 17 buildings, which are home to 660 families," said CHA CEO Tracey Scott. "It is just one piece of CHA’s sustainability goals. We are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across our portfolio and transitioning to clean energy. This all amounts to great news for CHA, its residents and the environment."

As part of a DOE grant, ComEd partnered with Siemens USA to provide the software used to operate the microgrid management system that integrates DERs and manages the islanding process. The software will also be used to cluster the BCM with the microgrid at IIT.

"This will be the first opportunity to study the interaction between a utility-scale microgrid and a customer microgrid working together in a community serving more than 1,000 residential, commercial and public institutions, leveraging solar and storage, so there is lots to learn about how to maximize the value of the interaction," said Dr. Mohammad Shahidehpour, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at IIT.

In recent weeks, ComEd has conducted live field tests to demonstrate how DERs can be used to support microgrid operations and enhance the resilience of the grid during disruptive events. The BCM successfully completed the live tests, disconnecting and then reconnecting to the main power grid without any interruptions in service to customers.

The BCM supports 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 security and resiliency and supporting the public good. The microgrid footprint 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 places of worship.

"Our vision for our historic community is centered on sustainability and accelerating the adoption of smart technology and infrastructure," said Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell. "Grid security and support for renewable energy sources are essential to realizing this vision and that’s what the microgrid will bring. The Bronzeville community looks forward to continuing a robust civic engagement process on this and other sustainable energy solutions."

The BCM is the backbone of ComEd’s Community of the Future Program, which leverages smart grid technology to enhance quality of life, supporting lab testing and field deployment of emerging technologies to support Bronzeville’s sustainability and clean energy goals. Pilot projects include off-grid wind and solar LED streetlights, multi-unit dwelling public EV chargers, and an indoor Agriculture Pod with advanced sensors. The microgrid has also inspired educational opportunities for area youth, such as the "Create a Spark" STEM Program in which students collaborate with ComEd mentors to explore engineering and energy concepts.

ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), a Fortune 250 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state's population. For more information visit ComEd.com, and connect with the company on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, X, and YouTube.

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20240524767721/en/

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