ComEd, a Chicago-based utility company has come up with a new solar energy pilot that will outfit about 100 Chicago-area homes with solar panels and “at least 50 of those with battery backup, ‘smart’ meters, net metering and a grid-tied status that enables them to send unused electric energy from their solar energy systems back to the grid.”
According to Val Jensen, ComEd Environmental and Marketing Vice President, each of these homes will be turned into a mini-utility. This pilot program will teach people from the selected homes how to plan electrical usage to avoid “peak” loading, making them better energy consumers. They will learn how to reduce the need for expensive utility upgrades for distribution and transmission and also how to reduce their energy bills.
ComEd and its technology vendors will provide $3 million for this project, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 will be more generous, providing $5 million.
For the future, the smart grid is expected to be extended to 131,000 homes, with 8,000 being used to evaluate “advanced metering capabilities”. This solar energy pilot program will last for 12 months, being the largest in the country and the first worldwide, offering a tiered pricing approach to its pilot participants.
Also, the selected users will have a range of different gadgets to help them out with all of these: “The smart-use rollout will include about 3,100 customers using a basic energy-use display meter; 1,500 ratepayers getting a larger, touch-screen device that allows electricity monitoring and Internet access; and 400 ComEd users getting programmable thermostats that allow programming and remote control of heating and air-conditioning units.”