Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)

Client:

Chicago, Illinois

Location:

Campus Nanogrid, 350 kW of solar-PV, 10 kW wind turbine, battery storage, EV charging

Scope:

The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) campus is a stand-alone microgrid, capable of completely islanding from the utility grid and operating independent of the utility distribution network. Starting in 2008, the IIT Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation partnered with the US Department of Energy to build the first-ever “Perfect Power” microgrid – a highly survivable and reliable microgrid that is more resilient than any utility distribution system. The campus itself is divided into seven distribution loops; that enable potential faults to be “self-healing”, almost instantaneously restoring service to any building.

Under the direction of Professor Mohammad Shahidehpour, Ph.D., Director of the Galvin Center, Azimuth has engineered and constructed multiple projects integrated with the campus microgrid. These include solar-PV, wind turbines, energy efficiency, lighting upgrades, and energy storage, across multiple buildings and locations on the campus.

Design Rationale and System Architecture: Each energy generation or storage project is connected directly to a building distribution system. This enables the energy performance of these assets to be integrated into the building monitoring systems that all communicate with the campus Network Operations Center.

The campus is a research test bed and is constantly pushing the envelope of innovation and technological advancement. Technologies and approaches pioneered at IIT are being commercialized across the country. Azimuth has a track record of integrating complicated projects under difficult conditions and delivering successful outcomes. These hallmarks have been part of the design for all of the IIT projects.

Project Challenges: The IIT projects provide regular challenges for the project team, starting with the cutting-edge technological integration, and continuing to include the building architecture, structural design, shading, obstructions, equipment location, and short schedule timelines. The Azimuth team has risen to the occasion and delivered multiple projects on time and budget with Azimuth’s trademark characteristics of safety, performance, and aesthetics.

For the most recent 220 kW solar-PV installation, we had to come up with a unique solution for placement of power electronics. There was no practical space inside the building to house the inverters. But there was an unused sauna room in the men’s locker room. The sauna was converted to an inverter equipment room, painted, ventilated, and lighted to support the solar equipment.

The future plans for the Keating Building were to develop an energy nanogrid for the premise, retrofitting parts of the solar-PV architecture to suit these plans. This modular replacement scheme drove the decision to use a mix of grounded and ungrounded inverters, oversized distribution components, and a point of common coupling as a bus tap on the main distribution switchboard.

The buildings on campus are architecturally significant, so the PV arrays had to be invisible from the ground. This required review and approval from the Chicago Planning and Zoning Commission. Further, all conduit runs had to be hidden, disguised, or blended into the surroundings.

“Azimuth delivered exactly what we needed to achieve our energy goals in the very complicated working environment of downtown Chicago. They listened to us, provided creative solutions, and have supported our energy and microgrid projects quickly; making it easy and effortless to do business with them. We are very happy with their service and will continue to work with Azimuth.”
 
Mohammad Shahidehpour, Ph.D.; Director of Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation, Illinois Institute of Technology

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