Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Alabama Power explores energy use in smart neighbourhood project

Steve Rogerson
April 27, 2017
Alabama Power is partnering with Signature Homes, Southern Company, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and technology vendors to create a community of 62 homes that will feature emerging energy-efficient technologies, materials and appliances, and a community-scale power system.
Called Smart Neighborhood, it will be located at Signature Homes' Reynold's Landing community at Ross Bridge in Hoover. This research and demonstration project will collect energy usage and performance data from various features in the homes. The information will be analysed to understand how the features can improve the ways homes are built and function to make people's lives easier.
Information from the HVAC systems, heat pump water heaters and other technologies will help Alabama Power determine which programmes and services can provide new, creative energy services for customers.
"Customers today expect energy solutions that fit their lifestyles, and that is the idea behind Smart Neighborhood by Alabama Power," said John Hudson, senior vice president. "Our goal is to continue to enhance our customers' experiences and to ensure they have more control over their energy use."
The energy for Smart Neighborhood will be provided by the existing electric grid, as well as a community-scale microgrid, which is composed of solar panels, battery storage and backup generation. The microgrid will have the capability to generate more than 586,000kW hours of energy annually, the amount needed for a neighbourhood the size of Reynold's Landing.
Information and data collected from the microgrid will provide Alabama Power with operational experience as the company evaluates microgrid technology. Data will be collected for two years.
"This project is another example of how Alabama Power continues to be at the forefront of energy research and development so it can continue to provide safe, affordable and reliable energy to its customers well into the future," Hudson said.
Each technology-enhanced home will be equipped with:

  • A Carrier Infinity heat pump and Rheem hybrid electric water heater;
  • Carrier Infinity Greenspeed intelligence home comfort system with an Infinity Touch thermostat, Rheem EcoNet mobile app and Vivint smart home system including voice-activated security, smart locks, lights, cameras and garage door control;
  • Interconnected Samsung appliances from the Alabama Power Appliance Center – smart hub refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer, and an induction range; and
  • Energy-efficient building features such as improved insulation, triple-pane windows and LED lighting.
Southern Company, the parent company of Alabama Power, is supporting research for the project to better understand Smart Neighborhood-type homes and the interactions between a microgrid and the existing electric grid.
Signature Homes is the community developer and will oversee the construction and sale of the homes.
"At Signature Homes, we are constantly looking for ways to enhance the lives of our customers through innovation and design," said chief executive officer Dwight Sandlin. "We could not be more proud to participate in such an exciting endeavour with top industry leaders Alabama Power, Southern Company and numerous technology vendors to deliver one of the first ever smart neighbourhoods. Reynold's Landing homes of the future will provide buyers the latest in technology, connectivity and energy saving features, and is the perfect addition to the award-winning Ross Bridge community in Hoover."
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a research partner, providing expertise to develop practical systems that could be integrated into homes and power grids across the nation.
Construction on the community is set to begin this summer and be completed by spring 2018. The microgrid will break ground this summer.
"Hoover has always been a strong community that leads in so many ways, and I am thrilled Hoover residents will have the chance to experience the technology and state-of-the-art benefits of Smart Neighborhood," said Mayor Frank Brocato.