Dept. of energy sees reynolds landing power system as model for future – hooversun.com electricity youtube

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.

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 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.

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.

Also, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 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.

The homes, built by Signature Homes, include thicker walls with more insulation, triple-pane windows and a radiant barrier roof that reflects radiant heat instead of absorbing it, reducing cooling costs. All the houses feature energy-efficient appliances, heat pumps and water heaters and are equipped with “smart home” technology that allows homeowners to control multiple features while away from home.

Daniel Simmons, the U.S. Department of Energy’s principal deputy assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy, said this project helps build on a tradition of technical excellence and build innovative solutions to save residents money without sacrificing comfort and security in their homes.

Simmons said he is accustomed to seeing this kind of technology in the laboratory, but what’s great about this project is that it takes that technology and science from national labs and puts it into real families’ lives to see how well it works.

Christine Harbin, the senior advisor for external affairs in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, said the government also looks at this project as a model for investment in microgrid technology.