New Solar Project Serves Chicago’s Bronzeville Neighborhood

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The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has partnered with Chicago-based VLV Development – a veteran-owned, diversity-certified business – for a solar project at Dearborn Homes, the first Chicago public housing community built after World War II.

The installation, expected to have a generation capacity of 750 kW, will help power the property’s 17 buildings, which serve more than 600 families in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

The newly completed project also supports energy company 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 is an interruption on the main grid.

“This project illustrates how communities, government and local businesses can come together to transform properties with clean energy solutions that achieve multiple goals,” says Terence R. Donnelly, president and chief operating officer of ComEd, which is a unit of Exelon Corp. “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.”

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

Van Vincent, president and CEO of VLV, notes that 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,” says Vincent.

The installation at Dearborn Homes is also 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 demonstration project, to be completed in 2020, will directly serve more than 1,000 households and businesses.

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