Bronzeville Community Microgrid To Provide Sustainable Energy To Residents

Bronzeville Community Microgrid To Provide Sustainable Energy To Residents

By Tia Carol Jones

A sustainable solar project that will leverage smart grid technology with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for Bronzeville residents recently celebrated its completion.

The Bronzeville Community Microgrid encompasses an area bounded from 33rd Street to the North, 38th Street to the South, State Street to the West, and South King Drive to the East, with a footprint that includes 10 facilities.

The microgrid can operate as an “island” in the event there is an interruption to the main grid. According to a release, the Bronzeville Community Microgrid 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.

“Our vision for our historic community is centered on sustainability and accelerating the adoption of smart technology and infrastructure,” 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell said in a release. “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 goal is that the Bronzeville Community Microgrid will be connected to the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to create a microgrid cluster by 2025. According to Sri Raghavan Kothandaraman, manager of grid strategy at ComEd, Bronzeville was chosen because it serves a variety of customers and load profiles – residential and commercial customers, as well as critical infrastructure – the Chicago Public Safety Headquarters, as well as schools.

Christian Mukania, manager of project execution at ComEd, said that the main goal of the microgrid is built for resiliency and to minimize the impact of events, like power outages or cyberattacks. During utility events, the microgrid can be disconnected from the utility grid and operate in island mode and serve as a localized power grid.

Kothandaraman said the microgrid being in proximity to the IIT microgrid is an opportunity to look at how two microgrids would interact with each other in terms of sharing resources, which is called clustering. When the Bronzeville Community Microgrid was initiated around 2017, one of the key elements was the potential to study the operation of two microgrids in conjunction. The Bronzeville Community Microgrid will serve 1,000 community customers and with the IIT microgrid cluster it will also cover the college’s campus. Benefits to the Bronzeville community include innovation and reliability benefits.

Hannah McGoldrick, manager of smart grid programs at ComEd, said the microgrid acts as an anchor to the community of the future program locations. With the program, ComEd has a Bronzeville Advisory Council that is made up of community members who they interact with when it comes to project locations and they serve as liaisons to inform community residents about upcoming projects.

“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,” Gil Quiniones, ComEd President and CEO, said in a release.

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