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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announces efficient homes initiative, tours community during visit to Chicago

The tour on the city’s South Side was facilitated by Argonne National Laboratory and the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership

Energy Secretary Granholm learned of two key initiatives on Chicago’s South Side that aim to provide residents needed access to clean energy solutions and economic growth.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm visited Chicago’s South Side on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, to announce the Affordable Home Energy Shot™. As part of her stop, she participated in a community tour focused on clean energy innovations that was facilitated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership, an economic development non-profit at the heart of many advancements in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

The launch of the Affordable Home Energy Shot, a new initiative from the DOE, focused on the research, development and demonstration of clean energy solutions to decarbonize and deliver energy and cost savings for affordable homes. The Affordable Home Energy Shot™ will drive innovative clean energy solutions in the affordable housing sector that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make homes more resilient and save residents money. It is funded by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

To me it’s all about the word all’ — the great three letter word. That no matter where you live — whether you live in Englewood or live in a newly renovated home on a tree-lined street in Evanston — no matter what the size of your wallet, you should be able to have access to affordable and reliable power. And that’s the president’s vision as well,” said Energy Secretary Granholm while speaking at a press conference during Thursday’s announcement.

Including Thursday’s news, the DOE has announced eight Energy Earthshots, focusing on the following areas:

  • Affordable homes
  • Hydrogen
  • Long-duration energy storage
  • Carbon negative
  • Enhanced geothermal
  • Floating offshore wind
  • Industrial heat
  • Clean fuels and products

Recently, as part of the Industrial Heatshot, Argonne was awarded $19 million in funding over four years to lead the multi-institutional Center for Steel Electrification by Electrosynthesis. The center’s charge is to develop an innovative and low-cost process that would replace blast furnaces in steelmaking and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85%.

To me it’s all about the word all’ — the great three letter word. That no matter where you live — whether you live in Englewood or live in a newly renovated home on a tree-lined street in Evanston — no matter what the size of your wallet, you should be able to have access to affordable and reliable power. And that’s the president’s vision as well.” — U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm 

The tour showcased several community-led efforts to understand, embrace and invest in clean energy solutions. Highlights of the tour included the Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church — the oldest black-owned property in Chicago, which was also once part of the Underground Railroad.

The church recently installed a new, all-electric, high efficiency variable refrigerant-flow heat pump system. This cutting-edge technology will provide centralized cooling to the historic chapel space for the first time in its storied history. With support from ComEd — the largest electric utility in Illinois — Quinn Chapel is able to keep its occupants cool and safe during peak summer months and avoid generating on-site greenhouse gases while also minimizing operational costs.

Tour participants also drove through historic Motor Row,” which once served as a bustling hub for automotive sales and repairs. Located along Michigan Avenue between Cermak Road and 24th Place, the area is undergoing a major revitalization to become an arts and entertainment district.

Another key highlight included the ComEd Bronzeville Community Microgrid. Partially funded by the DOE, the microgrid combines solar and natural-gas generation with battery storage to produce and store energy at a local level. It is the first utility microgrid in a dense urban environment with a Microgrid Master Controller to optimize the mix of Distributed Energy Resources while working in unison with existing control schemes to ensure grid stability and resiliency. The project has successfully demonstrated microgrid functionalities in a controlled environment. Argonne is among the partners working with ComEd to develop the microgrid.

The adoption of clean energy innovations is a national priority that is embraced by many Chicago’s communities. By facilitating collaborations with community leaders and industry, Argonne’s research and development can make a significant impact on the rapid deployment of clean energy technologies while joining communities in a commitment to an equitable energy transition,” said Robyn Wheeler Grange, director of Argonne’s Office of Community Engagement.

Once fully operational, the microgrid will be able to power more than 1,000 Bronzeville homes, businesses and critical public institutions. Dearborn Homes, an affordable housing development the group also toured, is powered in part by solar array that provides energy to the microgrid.

Argonne is eager to expand on its efforts to partner with industry, universities and colleges, utilities, non-profits and community organizations to bring the lab’s full capabilities to the challenge of decarbonization. These efforts are focused on developing and deploying affordable and efficient technologies, creating the next-generation workforce to install and maintain these technologies, and helping to identify and develop ways to overcome financial, social and other barriers to adoption of these technologies. 

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.