The 62 homes in Reynolds Landing at Ross Bridge in Hoover comprise the first neighborhood in the Southeast to operate on a microgrid, a control system for a network composed of everything from underground security surveillance to rooftop solar panels.
The microgrid controls were developed by a team among the 4,750 scientists and engineers at the top energy facility of the U.S. Department of Energy — the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, once home to one of the three secret laboratories of the Manhattan Project.
Today’s U.S. nuclear missile defense shield evolved from that 1940s work, and the futuristic vision of Reynolds Landing is helping to unfold the suburbia of the future.
“As technology continues to evolve, we understood that bringing all these factors together would be crucial to see how neighborhoods of the future — think 2040 — will function,” said Jonathan Tugwell, project application engineer with PowerSecure, one of the development partners in Reynolds Landing, along with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Alabama Power Co., Signature Homes and Southern Company.
Three years old now, Reynolds Landing is seeding similar futuristic projects and harvesting a trophy case of awards.
Most recently, Power magazine, a leading energy industry trade publication, gave the development one of its annual awards, the 2020 Smart Grid Award.
“The microgrid controller system was implemented for the first time at the microgrid,” said Todd Rath, Alabama Power’s director for the Smart Neighborhood Project. “The controller’s ability to manage the microgrid’s multiple power sources — solar panels, battery and natural gas generator — and work with resources within the homes to shift load to efficiently serve customers was, and is, cutting-edge.”
The community-scale microgrid is at the core of an energy network that includes rooftop solar panels, battery energy storage, a super-tight building envelope, comprehensive duct-sealing, triple-pane windows, radiant barrier roof decking, smart thermostats, connected and controllable heat pump water heaters, air-source heat pumps and electric vehicle chargers, as well as home automation and security packages including smart door locks, lights and voice control.
Space age engineering was also behind the security package. Developed by Alabama Power in partnership with Huntsville-based defense contractor Dynetics Corp.,
GroundAware is a ground surveillance sensor system comprised of advanced, reconfigurable surveillance sensors and digital beam-forming radar to continuously monitor an area of 15 kilometers and detect intrusions.
Power magazine’s 2020 Smart Grid Award joins other honors that include an Alliance to Save Energy 2019 Stars of Energy Efficiency award, a Fortnightly Smartest Communities 2019 award, and a showcase in EnergyInnovates, an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute.
Reynolds Landing has fostered three more Smart Neighborhood projects currently in development across Alabama as part of the Smart Neighborhood Builder Program. Holland Homes and Harris Doyle Homes are building neighborhoods in Auburn, while Curtis White Companies has a neighborhood planned for Leeds.
Also, most recently as part of the Smart Neighborhood initiative, Alabama Power has announced a partnership with the Housing Authority of Birmingham District and local builders to incorporate energy efficiency and home automation upgrades during the construction phase of housing units.