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Dearborn Homes Community Set To Go Solar

Solar energy project supports microgrid in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood

In a first of its kind public and private sector innovation project for Chicago, the Dearborn Homes public housing development that serves more than 600 families in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, is producing clean, renewable energy from the sun with private solar panels primarily on its rooftops. This solar installation completed this month supports ComEd’s Bronzeville Community microgrid, a small power grid that can generate its own power to keep electricity flowing to customers and support critical public services when there’s an interruption on the main grid.

The Chicago Housing Authority is partnering with Chicago-based VLV Development – a veteran-owned, diversity-certified business – to finance, design and maintain the solar installation project at Dearborn Homes, the first Chicago public housing community built after World War II. The solar installation is expected to have a generation capacity of 750 kilowatts and will help power the property’s 17 buildings, including 660 residential units.

“This project illustrates how communities, government and local businesses can come together to transform properties with clean energy solutions that achieve multiple goals,” said Terence R. Donnelly, president and chief operating officer, ComEd. “This is the model for the future, and we’re partnering with VLV to bring the benefits of solar energy to our customers living in Dearborn Homes, the CHA and the Bronzeville community.”

“This innovative partnership places CHA at the forefront of the clean energy industry,” said CHA CEO Eugene E. Jones, Jr. “We are glad to take these steps to ensure energy efficiency and better outcomes for our communities.”

The Future Energy Jobs Act that went into effect in 2017 offers incentives for the project that reduce upfront costs associated with solar panel installation. VLV has installed 2.5 megawatts of solar energy on multifamily and commercial buildings in Illinois and is partnering with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners in workforce training programs funded by FEJA. Focused on growing low-carbon energy, FEJA aims to power 1 million Illinois homes by solar and wind energy by 2030.

Van Vincent, president and CEO of VLV Development, said solar power is gaining traction in Illinois. “There is great momentum in our industry and we’re excited to partner with the CHA and ComEd to support the Bronzeville microgrid and bring clean energy to the community.”

The solar energy installation at Dearborn Homes is supported by a $4 million grant that ComEd received from the U.S. Department of Energy to design and deploy solar and battery storage technology in a microgrid. Construction of ComEd’s microgrid began in June 2018. The microgrid project will be completed in 2020 and directly serve more than 1,000 households and businesses. The demonstration project will create benefits for all ComEd customers as the company seeks effective ways to further enhance grid security and resiliency in Illinois.

The Dearborn Homes solar conversion brings another exciting dimension to ComEd’s Community of the Future in Bronzeville, where the company collaborates with residents to identify needs and opportunities to leverage smart grid technology and related services. In addition to the microgrid, technology pilots include an electric vehicle transportation service; off-grid wind and solar LED streetlights; and outdoor interactive displays providing community news, emergency alerts, way finding and public Wi-Fi. The effort also supports educational programs promoting development of STEM skills among area high school students.

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