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Illinois regulators greenlight ComEd’s microgrid ‘cluster’ project

By: Robert Walton |

  • The Illinois Commerce Commission on Wednesday approved a 10-year microgrid cluster project proposed by Commonwealth Edison in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.
  • The utility expects to complete the $25-million project in 2019 and will also develop new tariffs to allow non-utilities to own non-storage distributed generation on the grid.
  • The first phase of the project will include 2.5 MW of load, installation of battery storage and solar generation, and will require reconfiguration of an existing feeder. Phase I will serve 490 customers, but represents research into a range of microgrid subjects that will be built on in future projects.

Commonwealth Edison’s Bronzeville project will serve less than 1,100 people when it is complete, but the location was chosen for its complexity and diversity of loads. The completed project will serve residential, commercial and small industrial customers, and will allow third parties to manage resources on the grid.

The project has received more than $5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and will study how microgrids support the integration of clean energy onto the grid while increasing grid security. ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore said the microgrid demonstration project will “provide critical learnings on how to protect against and recover from disruptive events.”

Phase I will serve 2.5 MW of load and includes at least 0.75 MW of solar PV and a 0.5 MW / 2 MWh battery storage system. ComEd may also utilize 3 MW of mobile diesel generation it already owns.

In the second phase, ComEd will add 4.5 MW of load with approximately 7 MW of controllable generation resources. The utility also plans to interconnect with the existing microgrid at Illinois Institute of
Technology “to achieve clustering,” according to the commission’s order.

The first phase will cost $8 million and the second will cost $17 million. After the project was left out of a bill that set up nuclear subsidies for parent company Exelon, regulators will now allow the utility to recover the costs from customers.

Ratepayer advocates had initially opposed the idea, but say they worked with the utility to improve the project and its public benefits. The utility plans to work with EDF and CUB to develop new tariffs to allow third parties to create and manage localized power grids. The two groups in a statement said the ICC’s decision “starts the process for new, competitive players to enter the microgrid game.”