Getting Strategic with Microgrid Deployments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Commonwealth Edison is the host utility for the landmark Empowering Customers & Cities event November 4-6. The event will explore new business models for utilities as well as new ways of serving customers, including the rollout of microgrids, the subject of this two-part series. Last week: Microgrids for Illinois.

Commonwealth Edison is championing a proposal, presented to the Illinois General Assembly, that would enable an investment of up to $250 million in six microgrid pilots to support critical infrastructure and facilities within its service territory.

ComEd’s customers would be the main beneficiaries of this program. The proposed locations were carefully selected to demonstrate applications of microgrids for multiple types of infrastructure required to operate during extreme conditions. The targeted critical infrastructure includes water, transportation, health care, community and local government.

Prior to the site selection, ComEd leveraged its partnerships with several external agencies — including the DOE, Department of Homeland Security, Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications — to broaden the analysis around the critical infrastructure. In selection of these sites, ComEd adopted a holistic, data-driven approach to evaluate its power delivery infrastructure over the entire service territory for potential microgrid locations. The resiliency metrics included data related to critical infrastructure and customers, input from external stakeholders and existing power delivery infrastructure.

The proposed six locations selected include a mix of critical facilities in diverse geographic locations. The pilot program would enable ComEd to demonstrate how microgrid technology can provide security and resiliency to multiple types of critical facilities. While the program only includes six locations, the study revealed several other locations that could be considered as potential future microgrid installations.

Following are brief highlights of each of the six locations proposed as part of the microgrid pilot program:

• Bronzeville Community is located on the south side of Chicago. The pilot microgrid would be built around the resilient community concept. The neighborhood includes critical infrastructure as well as a representative cross-section of diverse customer classes within the city of Chicago. The Bronzeville microgrid would also be integrated with the existing campus microgrid at the Illinois Institute of Technology and form a microgrid cluster where the two microgrids would operate in conjunction and share resources. In support of the clustered community microgrid concept, ComEd was awarded a DOE grant to develop an advanced microgrid controller for controlling microgrid clusters.

• Chicago Heights is a suburb located south of the city of Chicago. The proposed microgrid in Chicago Heights would be an installation around several facilities supporting the water infrastructure in the area. The proposed footprint includes water pumping and treatment facilities along Thorn Creek. Besides Chicago Heights, these facilities provide water and wastewater treatment services to eight surrounding suburbs serving nearly 100,000 people. In case of an emergency, the continued supply of clean water is essential for the population.

• The DuPage County government complex is located in Wheaton, Illinois, a far western suburb of Chicago. The complex includes administrative buildings, a youth home, a county health department, a judicial building, a sheriff department, a highway department, a county jail and emergency management offices, all within a small footprint, which makes the area a good candidate for a microgrid installation. During the discussions with external stakeholders, the continued operation of local government during emergency conditions was identified as a high priority.

• The Federal Aviation Administration facility in Aurora has a major impact to the air traffic in North America. A fire event at the facility in the fall of 2014 disrupted air traffic across the U.S. The microgrid would add resiliency to the power supply of the facility and stability to the air traffic infrastructure overall. The location of the facility would allow for extension of the microgrid to the neighboring hospital, schools, health department and blood center.

• The Illinois Medical District is located west of the Chicago downtown business district. The area consists of several major hospitals and other critical infrastructure, all within a small urban footprint. The microgrid would demonstrate the benefits of a microgrid to the health care infrastructure and, because of its central location, demonstrate the benefits to a large number of ComEd customers.

• Rockford International Airport is located in the western part of ComEd’s service territory. Along with some passenger traffic, the airport is a major hub for air cargo. The proposed microgrid would support critical facilities for the airport and thus support the cargo and transportation infrastructures within the region. Because of the significance of the airport as a cargo hub, any disruption to its operations could impact the economy within the ComEd service territory.

Aleksi Paaso is a senior smart grid specialist with ComEd smart grid and technology. Shay Bahramirad is director of smart grid and technology at ComEd and an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Henry Pierce is in the smart grid and technology department at ComEd. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of ComEd.

 

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