Chicago City Transforming into a Solar-Powered ‘Tech Hub’.

Their hope is that by creating a solar energy microgrid right in the heart of the Bronzeville district, solar-powered technologies can transform and ultimately enhance the lives of residents and workers.


The Bronzeville neighborhood located on the south side of Chicago is set to receive a completely new -powered clustered microgrid next month. The project has been in the works since 2016 when the Community Development Partnership teamed up with local solar businesses in the area in order to bring this clean tech hub to life.

Reviving this area of Chicago and transforming it into a solar technology district has been the primary goal of Community Development Partnership, along with ComEd and the Illinois Institute of Technology, for over the past two years. Their hope is that by creating a solar microgrid right in the heart of the Bronzeville district, solar-powered technologies can transform and ultimately enhance the lives of residents and workers in Bronzeville.  

Community Development Partnership leader, Paula Robinson, stressed in a recent article originally published by Energy News, that incorporating the neighborhood’s history in with the solar-powered innovations is one of her main priorities. She sees the work they are doing with solar energy as a continuation of the legacy of the neighborhood itself. Her desire to maintain the integrity of the history of Bronzeville, but also provide greater opportunity and advancement for residents in the district, led to teaming up with those who share the same vision for Bronzeville’s solar-powered future. 

Leaders, such director of the Illinois Institute of Technology Howard Tullman, is one such individual working to make Bronzeville a better place via solar technology. Tullman is aiming to involve the community in the solar technology advancements happening in the city via the local college campuses. One particular project he noted that will fulfill this goal is the construction of the Kaplan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. The building, which is set to be completed this fall, will host classes and workshops, as well as provide space for various collaborations to take place between students, faculty, and solar technology leaders.  

Tullman reported the Renewable Energy World that, while the Illinois Institute of Technology is already a technology centered university, the trainings that will takes place there will now come with a special focus and emphasis on solar power and solar-powered technologies. He remarks that the solar energy job trainings soon to take place on the campus, are “for careers that don’t exist yet.” There are elements of solar technology, as well as certain solar technologies within themselves, that have yet to be explored thoroughly. Tullman hopes to train the next generation of solar energy leaders and address problems in solar energy that have not yet been solved or even discovered.  

The microgrid being built is provided by ComEd and leverages itself partially from a solar grid that has already been in place in the area since 2012. The infrastructure is known as a smart grid and essentially combines two microgrids. The new solar smart grid will communicate with the solar grid already in place at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The goal is that, ultimately, connecting the grids will enhance their efficiency and optimize the use of renewable energy for the region. 

Mohammad Shahidehpour, one of the leaders in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the Illinois Institute of Technology, describes this process of combining micro solar grids to form one smart grid as “clustering.” The combined power of both grids allows researchers and solar power leaders more control over how this renewable energy is used and directed. 

As with most solar-powered projects across the United States, the Bronzeville solar technology hub will be no exception to increasing the resourcefulness of the city as a whole. Residents in this Chicago suburb have much to anticipate and look forward to in the coming years in regard to how solar technology will transform the city, and thus, their lives. Additionally, an increase in demand for new skill sets and jobs that pertain to solar energy will help ease joblessness. Providing more efficient energy and creating opportunity are just two of the benefits these solar powered micro grids and other innovations will bring to the area. We can surely expect to see a better and brighter future for Bronzeville residents, students and workers in the coming years.  



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