Improving resiliency: ComEd, tech dream team partner to build a microgrid brain

Fri, 2014-09-26 06:00 -- Jesse Berst

We hear a lot of buzz about microgrids – localized power systems with the ability to self-supply and operate independently of the main grid. We hear about them because many believe they are the best way to guarantee power – even during natural disasters.

Now comes an interesting project out of Chicago where ComEd has won a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to build a master controller that could drive operations of clusters of grids. ComEd refers to the master controller as the "brain" of the microgrid as it collects data from a variety of individual energy resources and centrally determines how to control and operate those energy resources (smart switches, energy storage, etc.) Then it sends out the control signals that ultimately execute the power activity.

Unleashing the value and potential of microgrids
"Creating a master controller is a critical step in unleashing the value and potential of microgrids," said Joe Svachula, Vice President, Engineering and Smart Grid, ComEd. "While working with our technology partners to develop a first-of-its-kind microgrid controller that could work in a single or clustered environment, ComEd also will gain essential insights into the foundational building blocks for deploying a robust microgrid.”

As a ComEd announcement explains, microgrids can take power generation from the traditional electric grid as well as from sustainable sources including solar and wind. They can operate independently if disruptions occur on the main grid. Many may not realize that even in the midst of the horrendous devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, some east coast communities were able to maintain power during and after the severe weather, thanks to microgrids.

A tech who's who
ComEd worked with a who's who of science and technology experts to develop its DOE proposal – among them several Council partners and advisors -- S&C ElectricAlstom GridMicrosoftOSIsoft, Schneider Electric and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“S&C is delighted to be working with one of the most forward thinking utilities in the country on this microgrid project,” says David Chiesa, director of the Microgrid Business Development for S&C Electric. “This project shows how utilities are not only embracing microgrids, but leading the way in their wide scale adoption.”

Watch the short S&C video below to learn more about the benefits of microgrids.


Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to learn about the benefits you receive when you join the Council for free. Follow @Jesse_Berst and connect on LinkedIn.