Two smart energy communities in the US, which will consist of a total 30 single-family net zero homes, are being planned and will equip residents with a combination of renewable, electric and natural gas technologies.
Smart Nieghborhood digital rendering. Courtesy Nicor Gas Smart Neighborhood
These ‘Smart Neighborhood’ smart energy communities will be the result of a partnership between utilities Nicor Gas and Southern Company alongside Fox Valley and Northern Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity affiliates.
The Smart Neighborhood communities will aim to provide affordable, net zero greenhouse gas emissions housing options in the Chicagoland area, with one in Aurora and a second being developed in Northern Fox Valley.
Eligible residents will be able to access features such as energy-efficient appliances that help reduce high energy bills and mitigate carbon footprints.
The Smart Neighborhood will be built along Jericho Road and Garden Avenue near the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks in Aurora. Also known as CARE communities (Carbon-neutral, Affordable, Resilient and Efficient), each Smart Neighborhood will come with energy-efficient building envelopes, solar panels and battery solutions that will allow for further reliability in the event of storms or inclement weather.
A home’s “building envelope” refers to engineering and building practices that help manage the energy use in a home. This can be related to indoor heating or cooling, insulation and the thermal barrier of the home. In Illinois, where it can get very cold, using specific products and approaches can help keep energy bills more efficient.
Internet connectivity will have an important role in home automation and integrating more renewable sources of energy that lower the home’s carbon footprint within the communities.
The new smart homes will include a number of smart technology features, including:
• Smart thermostats
• Backup power supply in the form of garage battery storage systems
• Rooftop solar panels
• 240 VAC circuits in the garage for EV (Electric Vehicle) charging
• Insulated concrete foam walls
• Spray foam
• Energy efficient windows
• Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV)
• LED lighting
Smart Neighborhood is a trademarked brand of Southern Company, the parent company of Nicor Gas.
Smart Neighborhoods advance energy technologies that work together as a part of an affordable, reliable clean energy economy.
The Aurora community will be the first Smart Neighborhood to be built in Illinois and will launch a three-year research study to examine how natural gas can be part of the solution toward meeting net zero energy goals.
“At Habitat for Humanity, we are excited to work alongside Nicor Gas to create a pathway to strength, stability and independence through homeownership,” said Jeffrey Barrett, executive director and CEO of Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity. “
This collaboration represents a unique opportunity to advance the adoption of net zero energy solutions, while making them available to individuals who ordinarily could not afford these environmental upgrades.”
“We’re only now at the beginning of imagining the potential within renewable technology and the resiliency of a net zero future,” said Wendell Dallas, president and CEO of Nicor Gas. “As we enter this fourth industrial revolution, we must be more than innovative but inclusive to ensure everyone is able to enjoy the cost savings and the satisfaction of knowing they are doing their part to ensure a clean energy future for their communities.”
For this project, Fox Valley and Northern Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity affiliates will serve as developer of the Smart Neighborhood Initiative.
Habitat for Humanity will partner with local government officials on a broader Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative to conduct home repairs and build quality, affordable homes for those in need. Nicor Gas will support that initiative through its energy efficiency program.
Groundbreaking for the Aurora development is expected to take place next spring. Work on the Northern Fox Valley development is slated for 2024.