Southeast’s first community-scale microgrid nears completion in Hoover

Southeast’s first community-scale microgrid nears completion in Hoover
Reynolds Landing, a Smart Neighborhood by Alabama Power, will consist of 62 homes served partly by a microgrid. Construction has begun on about half of the homes, and a few have been completed. (Smart Neighborhood)

Checking in on Smart Neighborhood™ – part three

Construction on the microgrid that will serve Smart Neighborhood™ by Alabama Power is about 85 percent complete, and is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2017.

Smart Neighborhood is a state-of-the-art community of 62 homes in Signature Homes’ new Reynolds Landing community in Ross Bridge in Hoover. The first homeowners are scheduled to move into their homes later this month.

Once completed, the microgrid will include a 330 kWh AC solar array, about 600 kWh of battery storage and 400 kWh of natural gas backup generation. It is the first community-scale microgrid in the Southeast.

“The microgrid is cutting-edge technology that will offer valuable insights and operational experience into how it benefits our customers,” said John Hudson, senior vice president of Marketing and Business Development for Alabama Power. “We are proud to bring to life the first such microgrid of its kind in our region.”

The land has been cleared and solar panels have been installed, said Sam Duncan, product and development manager for Alabama Power.

“Last week, other major assets of the microgrid were set up, such as the battery storage, natural gas generator, load bank and power equipment center,” Duncan said.

The mix of renewable energy generation sources, like solar panels, and the ability to interact with each home’s HVAC systems and water heater make the microgrid a state-of-the-art project.

Alabama Power will operate the microgrid, and will be able to use specific assets of the microgrid for demonstration purposes to see how it works most efficiently.

“We will be using all of the assets in different ways as part of our research,” Duncan said.

The microgrid will have the capacity to generate more than 600,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, which is enough to power the neighborhood and provide support to the existing electric grid.

“The neighborhood will be powered by both the electric grid and the microgrid,” Duncan said. “But we will have the capability to island the neighborhood so it is solely powered by the microgrid, or we can feed the energy to both the community and the grid simultaneously.”

Duncan said the primary goal of the microgrid is to supply customers with reliable energy, while also changing how the energy is used or stored.

“Ultimately, we aim to prove there are many uses for the microgrid.” Duncan said.

For example, the solar panels are likely to generate more energy at the peak of the day, and if there is not a lot of energy being used in the neighborhood during that time, the energy could be pushed to storage or supplied to the existing electric grid.

“This microgrid will demonstrate shifting energy usage to either battery energy storage or thermal energy storage in the homes’ water heaters,” Duncan said. “Being able to test this technology will provide us with operational experience on how it can be used to best serve our customers.”

About Smart Neighborhood

Alabama Power announced the Smart Neighborhood project in April.

Each home features emerging energy-efficient technologies, materials and appliances, all connected to the microgrid. Performance data and energy use will be gathered from the homes’ innovative features and analyzed to provide insight into how homes can be built and function more efficiently.

Construction on the neighborhood is expected to be complete in spring 2018.

The project is a collaborative partnership with Signature Homes, Southern Company, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and various technology and other vendors. Learn more at smartneighbor.com.

Read more on Alabama NewsCenter about the Smart Neighborhood’s enhanced energy-efficient building features and connected home technologies.

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