Aaron Larson, executive editor of POWER Magazine, says the company’s blend of modern technology and energy efficiency in the project is one of the reasons his team selected Alabama Power for this year’s award.
“As technology continues to evolve, this research initiative will help Alabama Power understand how neighborhoods of the future will function,” Larson said. “The project serves not only as a model for new residential communities, but lessons learned could also benefit existing customers in more established communities.”
Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood, located in the Reynold’s Landing community at Ross Bridge in Hoover, integrates a microgrid into a community filled with high-performance homes containing energy-efficient systems and connected appliances. The innovative initiative, which includes solar panels, battery storage and a natural gas-fired backup generator, connects 62 homes with a future-focused system.
“Smart Neighborhood is unique because it is truly a first-of-its-kind project to incorporate all these components into one project—and then scale it up to 62 homes,” said Todd Rath, director of Marketing Services and Smart Neighborhood Project Sponsor at Alabama Power. “It is essentially lots of smaller projects and a large variety of technology within one.”
Rath says the lessons learned from the project will help Alabama Power understand when and where these systems may be more applicable in the future.
“As technology continues to evolve, we understood that bringing all these factors together would be crucial to see how neighborhoods of the future—think 2040—will function,” Rath said. “This helps us better plan our resources and identify opportunities to provide energy solutions for our customers to help prep for that future.”
Information discovered since Smart Neighborhood went online in 2018 has fueled development of three new projects across Alabama. The newest project in the Smart Neighborhood initiative is a partnership with Birmingham’s housing authority and local builders to incorporate energy efficiency and home automation upgrades during the construction phase of housing units, making energy use more affordable for families and seniors. An Alabama Power Smart Home will also be the featured home in this year’s Parade of Homes in Mobile.
“I think it’s safe to say that with a community-scale microgrid, rooftop solar panels, battery energy storage, a super-tight building envelope, comprehensive duct-sealing, triple-pane windows, radiant barrier roof decking, smart thermostats, connected and controllable heat pump water heaters, air-source heat pumps, and electric vehicle chargers, as well as home automation and security packages, including smart door locks, lights, and voice control, the Jetsons would be quite happy living in Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood,” Larson said. “Wouldn’t you?”
In addition to builder Signature Homes, Smart Neighborhood was made possible through partnerships with researchers from Alabama Power’s parent company, Southern Company, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Electric Power Research Institute, as well as technology vendors Carrier, Vivint and Rheem, among others.