New Smart Grid Partnership Creates a World First in Chicago

A signing ceremony today set into the motion a first-of-its-kind partnership to bring new smart grid innovations to Chicago. The deal is a cooperation between the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC), the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the Citizens Utility Board and several South Korean government and private interests, including Korea Telecom and LG Electronics. The public-private partnership is expected to provide more than $20 million to develop technological infrastructure, deploy energy optimization solutions, improve grid security and create a green collar workforce.

The pilot phase of the project will take between four and fourteen buildings of various sizes and occupancies—all within Chicago’s central business district—and install or retrofit new systems. By dimming lights during peak daylight hours, shutting off ventilation in unused areas, reducing water temperature and other strategies, buildings can reduce their energy consumption and even create a new revenue stream.

The new technology would enable a network operating center to communicate with buildings’ facility management. This real-time view of building utility consumption and grid needs can highlight where usage is highest during peak demand, and where it needs to be reduced. By reducing their draw on the fluctuating power market, buildings would be paid back by the grid operators.

“There’s a huge opportunity here for corporations. Imagine if you were an occupied corporate facility, so you could actually control your occupancy,” said Maureen Ehrenberg, President of BOMA/Chicago. “Let’s say today was your company picnic. You know you can shut down. They have a lot more control than tenant-occupied office buildings. Corporations have a ton of flexibility and we’re hoping we can get some corporate occupiers to sign on.”

“One of the challenges is to implement these strategies in ways that cause no discomfort to the tenants,” said BOMA/Chicago’s Executive Vice President, Michael Cornicelli. “That’s paramount. Nobody’s talking about shutting off the air conditioning on a hot August afternoon. Maybe you dial it back a bit, maybe you extinguish some decorative lighting that’s non-essential.”

BOMA refers to the large-scale smart grid technology as a virtual power plant. The owners and managers association has about 260 building members with a peak energy demand of around one thousand megawatts. If their entire membership were to sign into the smart grid program, they could potentially reduce their combined power load by 20%. “Two hundred megawatts of load-shaving is the equivalent of a mid-sized coal-powered generating plant,” said Cornicelli.

The Koreans have pledged an initial round of investment for Illinois-based projects that will demonstrate smart grid business opportunities and advance research and development on technologies that produce a more efficient and reliable smart grid. The first phase will include deep energy audits on loop-area high-rises in order to set up a multi-building regulation services and energy efficiency project. By installing new technologies to network buildings and enable smart grid strategies—such as demand response and variable operations of building systems—large properties like the AON Center can reduce energy use and costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Later phases of the partnership will address grid security and workforce training. The Illinois Institute of Technology and ADICA, LLC will build out its professional training and development programs in this sector to solidify Illinois as a hotbed for education and training opportunities in the smart grid sector. Through a global partnership with the Korea Electrical Engineering and Science Research Institute, this center will bring industry professionals from around the world to IIT to develop new strategies and techniques for business innovations that will result from the deployment of a smart grid.

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One Response to “New Smart Grid Partnership Creates a World First in Chicago”
  1. pell grant says:

    It’s posts like this that keep me coming back and checking this site regularly, thanks for the info!

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