Oak Park Moves Ahead with $3M Community Microgrid; Hires Pecan Street

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The village board of Oak Park, Ill. has selected Pecan Street via a competitive bid to provide technical support for a community microgrid that will include 200 houses and residential buildings.

Called the Oak Park Smart City USA Project, the $3 million demonstration microgrid will incorporate solar, batteries and home energy management systems for 100 single-family homes and 100 multifamily units.

The village has secured $755,388 in grants for the project from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation. It continues to seek additional funding.

Bordering Chicago, the 4.7-mile village is part of an innovation corridor set up in 2010 by Commonwealth Edison. Since then, the utility has been testing smart meters throughout the village of 52,000 people.

Keep up on news about the Oak Park community microgrid by following us on Twitter @MicrogridNews.

Oak Park also won a worldwide competition in August 2012 to participate in a smart grid test program offered by the Korean Smart Grid Institute (KSGI). The team is modeling the Oak  Park community microgrid after a similar project on South Korea’s Jeju Island.

The Oak Park microgrid will allow customers to arbitrage their energy supply and to participate in demand response programs offered by grid operator PJM, according to village documents. Aggregated energy data and usage will be managed through a cloud-based network operating center that connects to PJM. The project may include a public monitoring screen at village hall.

Villagers appear to be keenly interested in the community microgrid. More than 300  property owners have already have expressed an interest in participating via an online form.

Oak Park awarded Pecan Street a $75,000 contract to help plan the technical, project management, and participant engagement aspects of the project.

“Smart grid technology is new territory for communities such as ours, but its promise for energy savings and efficiency is real,” said Cara Pavlicek, village manager. “Oak Park already has made great strides toward setting up a demonstration project. With Pecan Street’s help, we can begin the journey from an idea to a working model. This is an exciting time for our community.”

Pecan Street, a not-for-profit research organization located at the University of Texas at Austin, was among four companies that responded to Oak Park’s request for qualifications issued in May.  The non-profit organization manages a research network of more than 1,200 volunteer homes in Texas, California and Colorado. In Austin’s Mueller neighborhood, where Pecan Street’s effort launched four years ago, more than 200 homes have rooftop solar and more than 70 residents drive electric vehicles.

Are there community microgrids in the works similar to Oak Park’s? Tell us about them on our LinkedIn Group, Microgrid Knowledge.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


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