September 18, 2014

Press Release: Issued by Village of Oak Park, IL on September 18, 2014

(Oak Park, IL – September 18, 2014) — A project to demonstrate the potential cost savings of electric smart grid technologies in Oak Park took a step closer to implementation Monday, as the Village Board confirmed its commitment to environmental sustainability by hiring an organization credited with creating the national model for smart grid project planning, implementation and management.

Pecan Street Inc., a not-for-profit research organization located at The University of Texas at Austin, was hired to assist in preparing to launch the Oak Park Smart City USA Project, which will link as many as 200 Oak Park homes and residential buildings into a neighborhood smart grid.

“Having the demonstrated knowledge, experience and expertise in getting smart grid projects up and running is a major step toward achieving our goal of keeping Oak Park a leader in environmental initiatives,” said Village President Anan Abu-Taleb. “With Pecan Street’s assistance, we can move closer to implementing a project that will underscore the Village’s commitment to environmental sustainability.”

Smart City USA began in 2010 as a partnership between the Village, the Korea Smart Grid Institute (KSGI) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), with coordination support from the Wagner Institute for Sustainable Energy Research at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The project entails installing equipment such as solar panels with batteries that would allow residences to collect and store energy for personal use and to sell back to the grid during peak times. Property owners would not have to pay any equipment or installation costs. KSGI and state grants will help fund the project.

Plans call for having 100 single-family homes and 100 multiple-family units participate, with the number of multi-unit buildings depending upon the number of units in each. Participants would form a micro-grid featuring two-way information and energy flow. Their aggregated energy data and usage would be managed through a cloud-based network operating center, which may include a public monitoring screen at Village Hall.

More than 300 Oak Park property owners already have expressed an interest in participating via an online form at www.oak-park.us/smartcityusa that gathered basic information to ensure the property was compatible with the program’s basic needs.

“Smart grid technology is new territory for communities such as ours, but its promise for energy savings and efficiency is real,” said Village Manager Cara Pavlicek. “Oak Park already has made great strides toward setting up a demonstration project. With Pecan Street’s help, we can begin the journey from an idea to a working model. This is an exciting time for our community.”

Pecan Street, which was chosen through a competitive bid that attracted four companies, manages a research network of more than 1,200 volunteer homes in Texas, California and Colorado. In Austin’s Mueller neighborhood, where the effort launched four years ago, more than 200 homes have rooftop solar and more than 70 residents drive electric vehicles.

The $75,000 contract with Pecan Street is for critical planning, a key step in the implementation process. Given Pecan Street’s smart grid project implementation, management and oversight experience, this initial contract could lead to a broader, regional approach to smart grid technologies, officials said.

For more information on the Smart City USA project, email sustainability@oak-park.us. Information about Pecan Street Inc. is posted at pecanstreet.org.

Contact: David Powers, Communications Director, Village of Oak Park, 708.358.5781, powers@oak-park.us