Microgrid Community in Hoover, Alabama Sets New Standard

Source: Jason Parks/Flickr

Located just ten miles south of Birmingham, every house in Alabama Power Company's 62-home smart neighborhood is now sold. Part of the attraction? Living in the first community in the southeastern U.S. powered by its own microgrid.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), a microgrid is "a local energy grid with control capability, which means it can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate autonomously." Called Reynold's Landing, the development is integrating solar energy, natural gas generation, battery storage, and high-efficiency homes into its system. This could lead up to energy savings of 50-60% compared to standard new American homes, all while providing energy resilience to the community. Homeowners expect to see lower utility bills, more efficient heating and cooling systems, better indoor air quality, and better control over their home appliances. Much in the home, including temperature, can be controlled from the homeowner's smart phone, furthering awareness of energy choices, saving money, and improving comfort.

Alabama Power, a Southern Co. subsidiary, is working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and DOE on this project, using a platform called VOLTTRON to provide grid-responsive controls that improve energy resilience while reducing power costs. Southern Co.'s Georgia Power unit is working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and DOE on a similar Connected Community project in Atlanta.

These projects will research, test, and validate two different 'transactive microgrid approaches' to community microgrids that integrate high energy efficiency, onsite power generation, and energy storage. They will serve as test-beds to advance the energy reliability, resilience, and economic performance of America’s communities and energy systems. These projects are part of the DOE's Building Technology Office grid-interactive efficient building research and development program which addresses important research questions to unlock opportunities to advance building energy performance and effective integration of grid and distributed energy resources.

For more information about the project, check out the Global Energy Institute's feature: