~e; Fwd: Seizing power initiative, city builds a backup unit

From Steve Jones <sjones@info.comm.uic.edu>
Date Thu, 4 Jul 2002 08:22:12 -0500
In-reply-to <a05111701b949f2db68b7@[]>
References <a05111701b949f2db68b7@[]>

>Seizing power initiative, city builds a backup unit
>By Melita Marie Garza
>Tribune staff reporter
>July 4, 2002
>As temperatures soared into the 90s this week, Commonwealth Edison 
>prepared for potential glitches in the electric system. But in one 
>small corner of Chicago, the city was ready for the worst.
>The City of Chicago has built its own 10-megawatt power plant, 
>linking scattered backup generators from eight police stations and 
>three senior citizen cooling centers in order to generate enough 
>electricity to power roughly 4,000 homes.
>The $400,000 system, built partly by Siemens Building Technologies 
>Inc. and Encorp Inc., a Colorado-based technology company, was 
>inspired by ComEd's failure to keep the lights on in the Loop during 
>the summer of 1999.
>Now, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and concerns about 
>energy security, the city's power plant has taken on a greater 
>significance. Rather than relying on engineers at each location to 
>switch on the on-site generators, the power plant links all the 
>generators with the flick of a switch from one central spot.
>"This means that if Chicago power shortages are imminent this 
>summer, the police department can easily switch from 
>utility-supplied to on-site generated power," said Scott Castelaz, 
>Encorp's vice president of corporate development. "The advantage--no 
>downtime, no glitches and no additional costs for expensive peaking 
>The power plant idea sprang from Mayor Daley's 2001 Energy Plan-- a 
>call to action for how to generate power in the future. The energy 
>blueprint calls for using distributed generation to add 1.5 billion 
>kilowatt hours of electricity to the city's power grid by 2010. The 
>energy would be roughly enough to power 25,000 homes. The idea is to 
>link as many independent generators as possible to expand the city's 
>power capabilities.
>Concept is a major change
>The concept of distributed power is a major shift from the way 
>electricity is generated now. Generally, electricity is dispersed 
>from large plants to homes and businesses. But distributed power 
>makes homes and businesses producers as well as consumers of 
>electricity. With distributed power, electrons flow on a two-way 
>The scheme is called a virtual power plant.
>What's more, distributed generation can use newer technologies, 
>including microturbines, solar cells and wind turbines.
>The $400,000 the city spent on the project came from a $100 million 
>kitty that ComEd provided under a 1999 settlement agreement with the 
>city. The settlement agreement arose out of a dispute between 
>Chicago and ComEd over what the city said was ComEd's failure to 
>live up to its commitment to capital investment projects.
>The backup system also is potentially lifesaving for Chicago 
>residents who may seek respite from heat at three of the city's 
>senior citizen cooling centers that are linked to the virtual power 
>The centers include the Garfield Community Service Office, 10 S. 
>Kedzie Ave.; King Community Service Office, 4314 S. Cottage Grove 
>Ave.; and the Southwest Regional Center, 6117 S. Kedzie Ave.
>Also offers some price benefits
>A prime attraction of distributed power is that it also offers the 
>city some shelter from potentially sky-high electricity prices, said 
>Marcia Jimenez, Chicago's commissioner of environment.
>"The virtual power plant provides backup electricity in the case of 
>a power outage," Jimenez said. "But it also can relieve pressure on 
>Commonwealth Edison when we have really hot days with high humidity. 
>This allows us to be much more efficient and to realize higher cost 
>In fact, ComEd led the effort to negotiate a contract that would 
>allow the city to become an interruptible power user. Such 
>contracts, common in private industry, also benefit ComEd because in 
>a power crunch, they allow the utility to make electricity available 
>to other customers who can't supply their own on-site generation.
>The city hopes to enlist private businesses in its campaign, using 
>its new 10-megawatt virtual power plant to kick-start the effort. 
>The project was done mostly with existing backup generators.
>To be sure, all Chicago police stations, fire stations and critical 
>facilities already have their own backup generators, though a number 
>of them operate on diesel fuel.
>Although the city envisions expanding its virtual power plant, it 
>will hook up only generators powered by natural gas or other 
>green-power sources.
>"We are not going to be adding diesel generators to the system 
>because they are ozone generators," said Steve Walter, deputy 
>commissioner of energy.
>"We are really looking for reliability and clean energy."

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