Future of Six Utility Microgrids Awaits Legislative Action in Illinois

Dec. 15, 2015
Illinois stands to gain six utility microgrids – including a 17-MW airport microgrid – if state lawmakers approve an energy bill backed by Commonwealth Edison.

Illinois stands to gain six utility microgrids – including a 17-MW airport microgrid – if state lawmakers approve an energy bill backed by Commonwealth Edison (ComEd).

The Exelon subsidiary promoted its microgrid plans last week during an event at the Universal Solar’s (Wanxiang Energy) panel manufacturing plant in Rockford, Ill.

The utility is pushing for legislative approval of $300 million to build the Chicago Rockford International Airport microgrid, and five other microgrids. They would power critical services at community, health care, government, aviation, and water pumping facilities.

“Like ComEd, we run a 24-by-7 operation and having a secure system is critical to what we do and just as critical is having a back-up plan that can be implemented immediately to maintain safe and reliable service,” said Jeff Polsean, the airport’s director of economic development. “Building a microgrid at the Rockford airport means increasing the safety, security and resiliency of our system and ensures we can operate in emergency situations.”

The international airport, which has a 50,000 square-foot terminal building, is on 3,000 acres in Winnebago County, Illinois, 85 miles northwest of Chicago. A commercial service center, the site also houses 30 industrial facilities and UPS’ largest regional parcel-sorting facility.

The microgrid funding is part of a larger legislative proposal, that ComEd calls the Future Energy Plan (HB 3328/SB1879). The bill also would boost energy efficiency, community solar and electric vehicle charging, as well as create demand-based rates for residential customers.

Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO, described the plan as a way to help “communities and customers leverage smart grid investments and take advantage of emerging technologies that will deliver the clean, custom, dependable and affordable energy future that our customers need and want.”

The package of utility microgrids includes a complex community microgrid in Bronzeville on Chicago’s South Side, near the police headquarters. The microgrid also would serve the Illinois Institute of Technology and would make use of a first-of-a-kind microgrid controller that ComEd is developing with a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Energy.

The other utility microgrids would serve the Illinois Medical District in Chicago, DuPage County government complex, Aurora FAA facility and the Chicago Heights water pumping & treatment facility.

The legislation is pending before the Illinois General Assembly. It was introduced earlier this year in the House by Rep. Robert Rita, a Democrat, and now has more than 40 co-sponsors. It was referred to the House Rules Committee in March. Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat, sponsored the Senate version, which has 16 co-sponsors. The Senate version was moved to Assignments October 10. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to return to session January 13.

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Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

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