ComEd installs off-grid renewable lighting at Bronzeville schools

This week ComEd said that it’s furthering innovation in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood with the installation of renewable energy powered lights along the walkway to the Beethoven Elementary School. Bronzeville is home to the first “microgrid cluster” in the United States.

Powering the lights are 30-foot-tall Remote Power Units (RPUs), miniature power plants that are not connected to the electric grid but draw energy from a wind turbine, solar panels and battery storage. ARIS Renewable Energy manufactured the RPUs, which were activated in a ribbon cutting ceremony led by Beethoven Elementary School Principal Mellodie Brown last week (see lead image.)

The RPU has a unique wind turbine that enhances airflow into the blades, causing a generator to efficiently produce energy and power the LED lighting. It combines the potential for wind at any hour of the day with daytime solar and a battery storage unit large enough to power the light for up to five days with no generation. The RPU powers its own internet connectivity to monitor and control its operation. 

ComEd installed the lights earlier this month at Beethoven and at Bronzeville’s Dunbar Vocational High School. The off-grid lights are the latest pilot projects in ComEd’s Community of the Future initiative, which is focused on using smart grid technology to become more connected, green and resilient, while developing interests and skills among students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).   

“We hope this innovative lighting solution will not only light up the physical paths students walk on, but show them that STEM isn’t just something you study in a classroom; it can transform everything from the internet to your walk to school,” said Shay Bahramirad, VP, Engineering and Smart grid, ComEd.

Other Community of the Future technology pilots include a microgrid that will enhance the security and resiliency of the electric system; an electric vehicle transportation service for seniors; a community energy storage pilot; interactive kiosks that provide real-time information, emergency alerts, wayfinding and free Wi-Fi; and sensor-based technologies that are being piloted with nearby Illinois Tech. The Community of the Future also features STEM education programs for Bronzeville and Chicago-area high school students, who are applying microprocessor technology to design solutions that address community needs and enhance quality of life.  


Shay Bahramirad, Vice President, Engineering and Smart Grid, ComEd was recently a speaker during the Power Women Networking Breakfast at DistribuTECH on February 6, 2019. Mark your calendars for DistribuTECH 2020, set to hit San Antonio, Texas January 28-30, 2019. 

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on Renewable Energy World and POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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