ComEd today launched the "ComEd Smart Grid Innovation Corridor," one of the broadest collections of Smart Grid pilots in the country. This suite of projects will evaluate the latest technology and implementation approaches in areas such as residential solar power, the company's first intelligent substation, distribution automation and electric vehicle charging stations.

The ComEd Smart Grid Innovation Corridor encompasses the 10 communities of Bellwood, Berwyn, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, Maywood, Melrose Park, Oak Park, River Forest and the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. It will build upon the information-rich Smart Meters currently installed in 130,000 residences within this area.

"Our innovation corridor is unlike any in the U.S.," said Anne Pramaggiore, president and chief operating officer, ComEd. "It allows us to study a variety of advanced Smart Grid technologies individually and in relation to each other. Through this deliberate approach, we will learn the best and most cost-effective way to deliver value to our customers, help them manage their bills, and improve system reliability."

Pramaggiore noted that the foundational technology for each pilot is the Smart Meter. ComEd recently launched one of the largest Smart Meter pilots in the country and is well-positioned to study the best approaches for creating a robust Smart Grid in northern Illinois.

"The Smart Meter is the on-ramp to the Smart Grid, and our goal is to ensure that these systems work for our customers. The ComEd Smart Grid Innovation Corridor allows us to prove out advanced technologies under realistic operating conditions," said Terence Donnelly, executive vice president of operations, ComEd.

The five pilots to be initiated this year include:

  • Photovoltaic (PV) Pilot: This three-year project is partially funded by a $5 million U.S. Department of Energy grant. It will examine the customer benefits of residential solar generation, hourly pricing signals, the ability to sell back unused solar electricity and the impact of changes in customer load on the ComEd grid. Participants will be selected by the end of this year for the pilot, which is expected to begin in the spring of 2011.
  • Intelligent Substation: Microprocessor-based controls and advanced digital devices currently are being installed at a substation in Oak Park to create an "intelligent substation" that will feature automated monitoring and analysis to improve reliability and streamline maintenance. The intelligent substation will go live in December.
  • Distribution Automation: Automated power-line restoration devices and smart isolation switches will be installed to create "self-healing" lines that will automatically correct disturbances and minimize the duration of outages. Equipment will go live in December.
  • Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure: Through partnerships with General Motors, the City of Chicago, the Electric Power Research Institute and industry groups, the next generation of electric vehicles will be studied and smart-charging infrastructure will be installed to encourage development of a Chicago market for electric vehicles. The first charging stations will be installed this fall, and ComEd will begin testing GM's Chevy Volt in 2011.
  • Dynamic Voltage Regulation: "Greening" the electric system by using Smart Grid technologies to reduce surplus voltage on distribution lines while maintaining high reliability. This pilot will go live in December.


To recruit participants for the PV Pilot, ComEd recently sent invitations to more than 25,000 customers who own a single-family home within the ComEd Smart Grid Innovation Corridor. One hundred homeowners will be selected to receive free rooftop solar panels and other equipment, free installation and Web access to monitor their electricity generation and consumption.

ComEd will work with the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory, who will serve as research partners and assist the company in analyzing various aspects of the PV pilot, including the wealth of data that will be generated, customer perceptions and overall benefits.