EEBA's High Performance Home Blog

Posts From March, 2020

Georgia Power Smart Neighborhood

A collaboration between DOE, utilities, and a long-standing homebuilder create an opportunity to explore how homeowners are using energy in a real-world, smart home environment.
Georgia Power Smart Neighborhood

“Altus at The Quarter,” a townhome community consisting of 46 units, recently opened in Atlanta, Georgia and will serve as real-world research for understanding “how emerging smart technologies and distributed energy resources can impact energy efficiency, energy management and resiliency.”

The townhomes include PV panels, battery storage, heat pump water heaters, and other energy efficient building elements - all managed by a “grid-interactive control system” developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (“ORNL”) and the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office (“BTO”).

Oak Ridge National Laboratory was originally established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project. They are currently managed and operated by UT-Battelle as a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the DOE. ORNL supports DOE’s national missions of scientific discovery, clean energy, and security.

The DOE’s Building Technologies Office leads a vast network of research and industry partners to continually develop innovative, cost-effective energy saving solutions to create better products, better new homes, better ways to improve older homes, and better buildings in which we work, shop, and lead our everyday lives.

The grid-interactive control system, if successful, should have the ability to optimize home energy use and “manage the neighborhood’s major energy users to maximize value for homeowners and grid operators alike.”

Altus at The Quarter, also known as Georgia Power Smart Neighborhood, is the second community in the BTO’s Connected Neighborhood project. The first community, Reynolds Landing, has been operational since 2017 and consists of 62 single family homes in Hoover, Alabama.


Microgrid at Reynolds Landing (photo: smartneighbor.com)

As of August 2019, researchers have discovered that the Reynolds Landing homes use 39% less energy than a sample set of new homes in the Birmingham metro area.

"Grid-interactive efficient buildings like these in our Atlanta and Hoover neighborhoods go beyond energy efficiency in that they’re advanced and able to not only harness the flexibility of their equipment and loads, but to deploy that flexibility in ways that also benefit the grid," says BTO Director David Nemtzow. "Grid-interactive buildings can improve the affordability and sustainability of energy by helping utilities reduce peak demand periods that are particularly costly and stressful for utilities to manage and for consumers to pay on their energy bills. This efficiency, in turn, helps reduce energy waste.”

The DOE recently released a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for “Connected Communities”. The FOA would support the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Grid-interactive Efficient Buildings research initiative, which explores how smart building technologies and practices will enable American businesses and families to save energy and reduce their utility bills while protecting their comfort, productivity, and quality of life.

Those interested in learning more or participating in this FOA can learn more here or reach out to aaron@eeba.org to talk about collaborating.

Collaboration and Energy Efficiency for Affordable Homes

It’s great to hear about net zero energy communities being built, and even better to discover the aim is to make them affordable.
Collaboration and Energy Efficiency for Affordable Homes

In many areas in the country, home prices are growing faster than incomes are increasing. Making sure homes stay affordable once they are occupied is essential in keeping costs down once they’re occupied.

Collaborating on projects is becoming more and more popular when attainability is of utmost importance.

In Hillsborough County in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, Commissioners are working with the Florida Home Partnership, a 501(c)3 nonprofit community home builder to build seven zero energy homes. The houses will utilize solar panels and aim for monthly electric bills of $20 or less. Other features will include metal roofing and concrete walls for hurricane resistance and lower insurance premiums.

Along with their collaboration with Florida Home Partnership, Hillsborough County has also secured a $150,000 grant from Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo has a history in housing philanthropy and recently announced a partnership with Enterprise Community Partners to create the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge. The national competition will be aimed at finding innovative and scalable solutions for subjects like construction costs, financing and resident services.

"What we want to do is start the conversation about what's possible with technology that's right there, right now." Mike Morina, Executive Director of Florida Home Partnership, said. 

"The good news is we have a growing economy," Overman said. "But we need housing for people to live in. And this is one way to make that happen."

With over 100,000 people searching for portable housing in the Hillsborough County area, seven homes may not seem like a lot. But successful, proven, scalable models are the only way we are going to make progress. Let us know what other interesting partnerships you’ve heard about that are paving the way to create energy efficient, affordable homes.