Alabama Power today publicly unveiled an innovative power system that is providing electricity for the new Reynolds Landing “smart neighborhood” in Ross Bridge.
It’s a power system called a microgrid that, though attached to the power company’s main electrical system, is capable of functioning independently of it. It is the first microgrid in the Southeast to support an entire residential community, according to Alabama Power.
One of the key elements of the microgrid serving the 62 homes in Reynolds Landing is a 3-acre solar panel field that is capable of producing 600,000 kilowatt hours of power annually, said Jim Leverette, a research engineer with Southern Co., Alabama Power’s parent company. That should be enough to serve all the electricity needs of the neighborhood, depending on their usage patterns, he said.
The Reynolds Landing microgrid, located on a 14-acre parcel owned by Alabama Power off Shannon-Oxmoor Road, less than a mile from Reynolds Landing, also includes a lithion ion battery bank and a natural gas-driven generator, Leverette said.
Since the microgrid started functioning at the beginning of the year, Alabama Power has been alternating the types of power used to serve the neighborhood, he said. At times, the entire neighborhood has been powered solely by the battery bank or solely by the natural gas-powered generator, but not yet solely by the solar panels, Leverette said.
At other times, the neighborhood was powered by a variety of combinations of the various power sources, sometimes using two power sources and sometimes three, he said. The microgrid is capable of producing about 1 megawatt of power if all three on-site power sources are being utilized, he said.
The neighborhood also is connected to Alabama Power’s regular power grid if it is needed, Leverette said.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy were on site today and said they are excited about this project because they see it as model for what the future could look like and look forward to studying how well it works.
Alabama Power is gathering data about the microgrid and the power usage of homes in Reynolds Landing over the next two years to provide insight into how neighborhoods of the future could function. The company plans to use the information to develop new programs, services and advanced energy solutions.
The project is part of a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Electric Power Research Institute.
Also, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week announced that the Reynolds Landing microgrid is the first project in its Global Energy Institute’s energy innovation campaign, which highlights the most innovative technology developments in the nation, said John Hudson, Alabama Power’s senior vice president of marketing and business development.
“We know that this neighborhood represents a great leap forward in serving our customers and providing energy in ways to improve people’s lives like we’ve never done before,” Hudson said.
In addition to being powered by a microgrid, the Reynolds Landing “smart neighborhood” also features homes that are rated 35 percent more energy-efficient than standard Alabama homes being built today, Alabama Power said.
The homes, built by Signature Homes, contain energy-efficient construction features, including thicker walls with more insulation, triple-pane windows and a radiant barrier roof that reflects radiant heat instead of absorbing it, reducing cooling costs.
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