How Beecher, Ill., plans to end power outages

This information provided by Smart Cities Council North America.
Thu, 2017-03-23 11:51 -- Kevin Ebi

There is no question that power outages are disruptive, but they could soon become a thing of the past for residents of one community. As you’ll read below, ComEd, which has already made great strides in making the energy grid more resilient in an area prone to severe weather, is now working with Council Lead Partner S&C Electric to use batteries to ensure the lights never go out.

Resiliency is always one of the top goals for any utility and this project is worth watching just for that reason. But going further, this is a novel idea that could pave the way for using more renewable sources of power. — Kevin Ebi

For residents of one city near Chicago, the lights will soon never go out. The city of Beecher will soon be part of a pilot project that will use batteries to provide residents with emergency power.

The project involving ComEd and Council Lead Partner S&C Electric is designed to help residents weather storms, building on the utility’s work to prevent outages in the first place. But it could also lay the groundwork for getting more energy from renewable sources, which are prone to fluctuations.

It’s all about resiliency
The area south of Chicago is prone to severe weather. Lightning strikes and gusty winds regularly knock out power. With most storms, nearly everyone gets their power back within two days, but one windstorm that was accompanied by ice triggered an extended outage.

In Beecher, ComEd plans to install S&C Electric’s PureWave Community Energy Storage System, which features a 25-kWh lithium-ion battery. When the power goes out, residents shouldn’t even notice.

The battery will kick in almost immediately and should contain enough energy to last until crews can restore the regular source. The system will also be located near existing ComEd equipment at participating residences to avoid creating additional points of failure.

Laying groundwork for renewables
In the future, the local batteries could make it easier for residents to get more of their power from renewable sources. But renewable sources like solar and wind are prone to fluctuations. When the wind stops, so does the power generation.

While this project is devoted to keeping the lights on when storms damage the power lines, the battery technology could one day help make renewable energy a reliable source of power.

How to pay for it
Unlike a micro grid project ComEd is working on, financing this pilot won’t be an issue. Funding for it is coming through the base electrical rate, eliminating the need to win grants or find other funding sources.

Funding a micro grid in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago has taken a number of twists and turns. ComEd was counting on help from Illinois, but state lawmakers stripped funding for micro grids last fall, although they kept funding for other energy projects. It’s still working to make that project a reality, although it’s not sure how it’s going to do that.