By Kaitlin Schuler
Commonwealth Edison Co. received a $4 million grant today from a U.S. government initiative for components of its planned microgrid creation in the Chicago Bronzeville neighborhood. ComEd believes that the creation of a microgrid will improve the area by connecting residents and providing energy-saving options and put Chicago on the map as a leader in new technologies that help customers. Residents, however, are more concerned about whether the new creation will bring new jobs.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a microgrid is a group of energy resources that acts as a single unit able to connect or disconnect from the main grid. The creation of microgrids aims to take some pressure off the main grid while also providing security in case of power outages due to weather, security breaches or other disruptions.
At the Illinois Institute of Technology’s current microgrid, power is generated from multiple sources, include a two wind turbines and a solar panel. The microgrid in Bronzeville will connect with the microgrid already in use by IIT. However, the bill that would allow ComEd to invest $300 million in six microgrid programs throughout Illinois is still under review in the Illinois legislature.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded ComEd in Wednesday’s press release for helping Chicago use futuristic technologies to create jobs in the city, and Alderman Pat Dowell of the Third Ward, where Bronzeville resides, echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
“This initiative underscores the importance of Chicago as a leader in energy innovation for the future,” Dowell told ComEd. “We support ComEd in its efforts to develop microgrid programs that will help all Chicagoans.”
Bronzeville, a neighborhood with a majority African American population, was marked for improvements in 2013 under the Chicago Neighborhoods Now program, but residents say they have yet to see significant changes. Do they think the creation of a microgrid would help improve their neighborhood?
“I haven’t lived here for that long,” said Helene Bansley, a resident of Bronzeville who moved to the neighborhood in the summer. “But from what I can tell, the area could use more jobs. It seems like creating a whole new electrical system would help with that, because they need people to maintain it.”
ComEd, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Exelon Corp., provides power to 3.8 million homes and businesses in northern Illinois. It has partnered with IIT and the Argonne National Laboratory for the Bronzeville microgrid initiative.