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Smart Neighborhood with ORNL microgrid technology wins Smart Grid Award

Topic: Clean Energy

The Southeast’s first-of-its kind residential microgrid, developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is part of a Smart Neighborhood near Birmingham, Alabama that was awarded the 2020 Smart Grid Award by Power magazine. Recognized by Power as an outstanding smart grid project that demonstrates the benefits of new data-rich technologies to power generators, transmitters and users, the Smart Neighborhood is comprised of 62 state-of-the-art homes powered by a microgrid.

Completed in 2017, the neighborhood’s microgrid can function independently or in conjunction with the main electrical grid. The Smart Neighborhood demonstrates transactive energy allowing the system to evaluate all available power sources and choose the most efficient and economical. ORNL researchers developed the controls for the microgrid which enables utilities to achieve their desired load and cost profiles while ensuring the comfort of homeowners.

Operated by Alabama Power, the microgrid is capable of generating 600,000 kilowatts. Data compiled from the microgrid’s controller is maintained by Alabama Power’s parent company Southern Company and analyzed by software developed by ORNL. Homes within the neighborhood showcase the latest energy-efficiency heat pumps, hybrid electric water heaters, intelligent thermostats, smart locks, lights, cameras and garage doors.

Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood is one of two in the U.S Department of Energy’s  (DOE’s) Connected Neighborhood project, supported by the Building Technologies Office, where ORNL researchers leverage DOE investment in microgrids and responsive, flexible building loads research to improve grid reliability – a goal of DOE’s Grid-interactive Efficient Buildings (GEB) InitiativeThe project was co-funded by the Office of Electricity.

The second Smart Neighborhood, located in Atlanta, Georgia, opened in 2019 and consists of 46 multiple story townhomes powered by solar and battery energy. ORNL has partnered with Georgia Power and Southern Company to assist in the development of the management of the neighborhood’s home energy optimization platform. The platform schedules each home’s major appliances, in coordination with solar and batteries, to minimize costs while optimizing the homeowner’s comfort all while connected to a residential microgrid.