Bronzeville – a neighborhood of Chicago, IL – now has the country’s first utility microgrid cluster. Commonwealth Edison’s (ComEd) has linked the Bronzeville Community Microgrid with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) microgrid – allowing both to seamlessly island from the main grid and to share power.
“The key here is this is the first utility-scale demo of a utility microgrid and customer microgrid working together in a real community serving more than 1,000 residential, commercial and public institution locations — including a public housing complex — leveraging solar and storage,” said Alexi Paaso, director of distribution planning for ComEd. “The big thing for us is the clustering capability, showing the ability of two microgrids to work together.”
ComEd recently successfully completed final testing requirements of the $4 million grant which was awarded by the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. The grant’s goal was to study how microgrids can increase energy security and resilience and support the integration of clean energy.
Creating the cluster involved extensive testing to ensure continuity of power and synchronization between the two microgrids. ComEd performed simulations using an RTDS Technologies simulator, which creates simulations of events in the real grid. The testing included ensuring that voltage and frequency were at desired levels when the microgrids reconnected to the grid.
“When you take a look at any microgrid, hardware, software, communications, every time you separate from the grid, you need proper protection and control to have seamless islanding,” Aleksandar Vukojevic, engineer and manager, smart grid for ComEd, said.
The microgrid is part of ComEd’s Community of the Future initiative, which aims to implement sustainable energy solutions in urban communities and provide education and access to resources to help communities become more resilient.