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First Public Microgrid in the US is Powering Up in Chicago to Keep Energy Flowing During Emergencies

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Recent winter storms in Texas, as well as Gulf Coast hurricanes, and heat waves in California have forced utilities to think about more resilient power grids.

In Chicago, where the threat of winter blizzards, summer power surges, and deadly tornadoes can leave tens of thousands of residents without power for many days, a new microgrid is on the cusp of becoming a model for the country.

ComEd, the electric and gas utility company with 10 million customers, has successfully completed final testing of a microgrid integration—a network of solar panels, generators, batteries—that will increase energy security and resilience for residents and businesses on Chicago’s South Side.

“The impact of this project will be felt the world over as the industry better understands what is possible in integrating clean energy technologies,” said Prof. Amin Khodaei of the University of Denver.

Microgrids are small power grids with defined boundaries. They can operate in conjunction with the main grid or disconnect and operate standalone to keep power flowing. The tests demonstrated how Distributed Energy Resources (DER), such as solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery energy storage, can be used to support microgrid operations and enhance the resilience of the grid during disruptive events such as storms or natural disasters.

During the test, the microgrid successfully disconnected and reconnected to the main power grid without any interruptions in service to customers.

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