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May 30, 2019

Powering Alabama’s Smart Communities .

Powering Alabama’s Smart Communities

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Michelle James
Vice President, Strategic Industry Programs

Earlier this month, CTIA Smart Cities Business and Technology Working Group – which is devoted to developing tools and resources that increase efficiencies, create jobs and drive economic growth for municipalities across the U.S. – brought industry experts together in Birmingham, Alabama to explore the ways smart utilities are revolutionizing communities in the South.

It was great to convene our members who are working to improve the life of consumers through smart city applications and developments in this part of the country. After the meeting’s discussions and tours, three key takeaways from our time in Alabama were clear:

Smart City Development Is Happening Today

At the top of our smart city agenda was a discussion with SouthernLinc President & CEO Tami Barron. Tami shared her company’s smart technology initiatives, including their advanced grid requirements for enhanced efficiency and reliability, modernization of producing, transporting and selling electricity, and plans for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Next, a panel featuring experts from Southern Company, the parent company of SouthernLinc, including Tracy West, Director of Research and Development; Alan McIntyre, Engineering Director; Chris Towe, Security Manager; and Kyle Allison, Distribution Support Manager, discussed their day-to-day involvement with smart city development and the steps they are taking towards building smarter, more efficient communities.

Through the discussion, it was clear that smart cities are taking shape today – in neighborhoods, downtown shopping districts, parks and the streetlights that illuminate all these areas at dusk. The evolution of smart cities starts with one smart project in each community. Over time, smart technology adoption will increase as cities grow and communities become more sustainable and connected.

Smart Communities Make Both the Home and Homeowner Smarter

The group had the opportunity to visit Southern Company’s largest smart city project, Reynold’s Landing. A smart neighborhood located just 30 minutes west of Birmingham, Reynold’s Landing includes 60 homes powered by a community solar powered grid.

This is the first community in the Southeast to integrate smart homes, energy efficient systems and appliances, connected devices and a microgrid. The microgrid is made up of solar panels, battery storage and a backup natural gas generator.

The smart homes achieve reductions in utility output of upwards of 35 percent and are outfitted with smart appliances, smart glass windows, electric vehicle charging stations, smart security systems and smart HVAC units. These smart technologies provide the homeowner with reports to track appliance performance and maintenance needs, empowering them with the knowledge to reduce use and increase efficiencies.

Reynold’s Landing is an example of the way communities will be developed in the future: with smart technology fully integrated to the benefit of each resident.

Smart Technologies Will Benefit Rural Communities

We also visited the town of Jasper, Alabama, a rural community of about 15,000 people, 30 minutes north of Birmingham. While there, Mayor David O’Mary spoke to the group about the unique challenges the town faces as they work to evolve from a coal mining community to one that attracts next-generation businesses as well as new residents.

The Working Group also toured Jasper’s upgraded 2,900+ LED streetlights, electronic vehicle charging stations, the renovated Main Street and the new industrial park.

Jasper is the perfect example of the power that connectivity can bring to rural towns. Small communities are a testament to what smart technologies are all about—improving the quality of life for citizens and increasing efficiencies. Together as an industry, we collaborate to serve communities of all sizes as smart technologies make us even more connected.

For more information about CTIA’s Smart Cities Business and Technology Working Group, please contact Christina Metzger at cmetzger@ctia.org.

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