This may be a glimpse into the future: Southern Co. and its Alabama Power and Georgia Power subsidiaries have announced a Smart Neighborhood initiative that will provide customers with state-of-the-art home construction, distributed energy resources – including solar and battery energy storage – and smart home appliances and technologies.
The first-of-a-kind Smart Neighborhoods – located in Atlanta and suburban Birmingham, Alabama – will benefit customers through improved reliability, increased use of distributed energy resources and lower costs. These communities have the potential to further enable the smart grid and help the Southern Company system better meet customers’ evolving energy needs. These are the types of ideas we were talking about when we said utilities need to step up.
“In the rapidly changing energy landscape, we are focused on meeting customers’ current and future energy needs through cutting-edge research and technology,” said Southern Company Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kimberly S. Greene. “These collaborative research projects with Alabama Power, Georgia Power and our partners will deepen our understanding of how distributed energy resources interact with the electric grid and how emerging technologies improve customers’ lives.”
How it will work
Both projects simulate what the future may hold for the energy industry, and provide Southern Company and its subsidiaries information on how homes of the future will function. That information will lead to new programs, products and services for customers.
The Smart Neighborhood concept is the result of the Southern Company research and development team’s deep collaboration with Alabama Power and Georgia Power, including a supporting partnership with the Southern Company Energy Innovation Center. The companies collaborated with U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Electric Power Research Institute on the initiatives, and have partnered with leading homebuilders for the construction and sale of the communities’ homes.
The first Smart Neighborhood project was announced by Alabama Power and all 62 homes have been sold. Signature Homes is the community developer and is overseeing the construction and sale of the homes at the Reynolds Landing community at Ross Bridge in Hoover, Ala. Home construction is expected to be complete in the spring.
“The first homeowners have moved into our Smart Neighborhood and we are excited to provide those customers with advanced energy solutions that will influence services across our territory in the future,” said John Hudson, Alabama Power’s senior vice president of Marketing and Business Development. “Each home is a crystal ball for home-building and residential consumption. Along with our construction, technology and research partners, Alabama Power is among the leaders of energy innovation.”
The Alabama project features the Southeast’s first community-scale microgrid. It is comprised of solar panels, battery energy storage and a natural gas generator that supplements power from the existing electric grid.
Each home in the Smart Neighborhood is built with emerging energy-efficient building features, and equipped with leading-edge technology, including a high-efficiency heat pump, an intelligence home comfort system with an Infinity Touch thermostat, voice-activated security, smart locks, cameras, interconnected appliances, triple-pane windows, LED lighting and more.
Meanwhile, Georgia Power has partnered with PulteGroup to help develop the first Smart Neighborhood in Atlanta. The new homes will be located in Atlanta’s Upper West Side, one of the city’s most vibrant and popular areas. Altus at The Quarter will feature luxury townhomes with cutting-edge smart home technology.
“Building the future of energy in Georgia centers on our continued commitment to offer new, flexible products and services that meet the changing needs of our customers,” said Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power. “This partnership with PulteGroup provides a unique opportunity for us to demonstrate how energy companies can collaborate with homebuilders and retail partners to better serve customers today while developing new opportunities for tomorrow.”
Each technology-enhanced home in the Georgia Power Smart Neighborhood will be served by Georgia Power with power supplemented by individual rooftop solar installations and in-home battery energy storage. Homes also will be equipped with the latest energy technologies such as optimal insulation for maximum efficiency, advanced heating and cooling systems and LED lighting. They will feature home automation, including smart thermostats, smart locks and voice control.
Construction is underway with the grand opening scheduled for later this year.
Information and data collected from the distributed energy resources will provide researchers valuable operational experience as the company continues to evaluate microgrids along with residential battery storage and rooftop solar. Information from the HVAC systems, heat pump water heaters and other technologies will help inform new programs and services for customers.
— Solar Builder magazine