Community Microgrids: A Smart Future

Take a look at Reynolds Landing — Alabama’s “Smart Neighborhood” — and the community microgrid initiative that has the potential to power our future.

| August/September 2019

microgrid 

Imagine your house having the ability to ease your morning routine: When your alarm rings, soft-hued light fills the bathroom and illuminates a path to the kitchen, where gentle music streams and a kettle of boiling water sits, ready for tea or coffee. With the swipe of a cellphone app, a smart window in the living room transforms from opaque to transparent, letting in sunrise views. As you leave for work, you speak a single command that locks all doors and activates a security system.

Many of us can envision the Jetsons living in a home with futuristic features like these, but for homeowner Hannah Kennedy, smart home living is a present-day reality.

Kennedy lives not in Orbit City, but in Reynolds Landing, a neighborhood in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, Alabama. Walking around to admire the handsome new construction and symmetrical lawns, you’d likely not realize that the neighborhood is an experiment in resilient, low-carbon energy, and connected to one of the first community microgrids in the country.



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The microgrid that powers Reynolds Landing comprises an array of solar panels, a lithium-ion battery storage system, and a natural gas generator, with a total capacity of about 1 megawatt.

What’s a Microgrid?

Reynolds Landing has a second name that better characterizes the development’s intelligent planning — Alabama Power Smart Neighborhood. When Alabama Power, an electric utility subsidiary of the energy corporation Southern Company, unveiled its Smart Neighborhood in 2018, it switched on a rare neighborhood-scale microgrid as a way to pilot the technology. But while only a handful of community microgrids exist in North America, traditional microgrids have operated around the world for decades.






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