U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

The Neighborhood of the Future

By Heath Knakmuhs

As we discussed earlier this month, Energy Innovates is the Global Energy Institute’s new initiative that highlights some of the most interesting energy projects and people that are changing our energy landscape. Our first stop is an exciting project in Hoover, Alabama, that is demonstrating energy innovation and new, efficient technologies that will impact your daily life.

Our new video featuring Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood™ gives you a three-minute tour of this exciting project, and lets you hear directly from the folks behind it.  Be warned, though—by the end of the video you may have “smart home” envy!

To watch our video tour click the image below:

Our GEI team was on the ground for the official opening of the Smart Neighborhood earlier this month.  The opening of these 62 homes and its connected microgrid is a great example of how public-private partnerships can lend themselves to meaningful research and development, while making the adoption of new technologies in the real world possible.  To mark the “public” side of the partnership of this project, Daniel Simmons, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), was on hand to discuss how DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory will play a role in monitoring energy usage from the homes in the neighborhood, and will use these findings to inform future technology development.  He also explained how the neighborhood’s colocation of both the generation and consumption of electricity positions the project as an example for other neighborhoods around the country, while also highlighting our nation as a leader in both the generation and use of energy.

We also take you on a tour with one of the lead engineers of the Smart Neighborhood’s revolutionary community microgrid.  Southern Company’s research and development team built a compound comprising solar panels, battery storage, and a natural gas-fed engine to create a resilient mix of generation resources – nearly adjacent to the neighborhood itself.  With the help of DOE, these resources are able to communicate in real time with the homeowners’ water heaters and air conditioners, ensuring that power is both generated and used in the most efficient manner.  Perhaps most importantly, these enhanced efficiencies are unnoticed by Smart Neighborhood homeowners who continue to enjoy maximum comfort and convenience regardless of the weather or the time of day.

Speaking of homeowners, you’ll meet Hannah Kennedy, one of the proud residents of the Smart Neighborhood.  She explains her surprise as to how all of the technical gadgetry and personal comfort of her new home comes with one of the greatest gifts of all – a lower utility bill!

This neighborhood of the future is also a great source of civic pride, as evidenced by Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato and Jon Nugent of the Birmingham Business Alliance in their remarks. 

In the weeks to come, we will release a few more videos that will dig deeper into the special features of these homes, the local innovators who made it all happen, and the positive impact the project is already having on the surrounding community.  We hope you enjoy this video tour—you never know, there may be a “smart neighborhood” coming to your area in the not-too-distant future!  

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