Southern Company R&D invents, shapes and accelerates emerging energy technologies to improve the lives of customers and build the future of energy. Our diverse research portfolio explores a full spectrum of solutions to address the energy industry’s greatest challenges.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded Southern Company R&D funding for the Novel Microbial Electrolysis System for Conversion of Biowastes into Low-Cost Renewable Hydrogen project. Southern Company Gas will lead the project and collaborate with partners, Electro-Active Technologies and T2M Global, to advance a technology for production of clean hydrogen from waste. The project’s approach targets distributed generation of hydrogen from food waste, diverting the waste from landfills and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions from the food value chain and the transportation sector.
These first-of-a-kind Smart Neighborhoods are real-world R&D projects within Southern Company’s footprint designed to help inform how energy could be produced, delivered and consumed in the future. Southern Company, its electric operating companies and key partners are researching what technologies will be commonplace in the average home in 2040. The neighborhoods provide customers with state-of-the-art home construction, distributed energy resources – like battery energy storage and solar – as well as smart home appliances and technologies. Project partners include the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and key technology vendors.
Southern Company has signed on as an anchor sponsor of the low-carbon R&D joint venture, LCRI, that partners the Electric Power Research Institute with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI). The collaboration between the electric and gas sectors aims to advance global, economywide deep carbon reductions. The goal of the five-year initiative is to accelerate the development and demonstration of pathways to low-carbon energy technologies, such as hydrogen, renewable natural gas and bioenergy for large-scale development.
Southern Company is advancing energy storage as an effective, technically viable solution through a comprehensive portfolio of battery storage R&D projects – including the Energy Storage Research Center and the Alabama Power and Georgia Power Smart Neighborhoods. Energy storage systems have the potential to add more renewables to the grid, improve resiliency and reliability, increase the implementation of distributed energy and microgrids, and improve operational flexibility of the grid – while creating value for customers. In 2020, the Edison Electric Institute awarded Southern Company the electric utility industry's most prestigious honor – the Edison Award – for its portfolio of energy storage R&D initiatives.
For more than a decade, Southern Company has been managing and operating the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Alabama. The facility was created to advance technology development to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-based power generation. Our work in conjunction with DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory has expanded to include a greater focus on developing technologies to achieve deep carbon reductions from natural gas-based generation. The center is testing more than 60 technologies that have already reduced the projected cost of carbon capture, and further reductions are expected from testing natural gas-fueled power plant carbon capture technologies. This research also includes evolving negative-carbon concepts, such as carbon utilization and storage, and technology-enhanced natural solutions for carbon removal through direct air capture technologies and bioenergy.
Southern Company is playing an industry-leading role in developing fourth-generation nuclear technology. Our R&D team is collaborating with TerraPower, the U.S. Department of Energy and a number of partners to explore, develop and demonstrate the molten chloride fast reactor (MCFR), a transformational nuclear technology designed to enable low-cost, economywide decarbonization. In 2020, Southern Company was selected to lead a team that will design, construct and operate the molten chloride reactor experiment – a significant step in advancing MCFR technology toward commercialization.
Southern Company is a founding partner and the chair of Energy Impact Partners, the utility-backed venture capital fund with over $1.5 billion in assets under management.The fund conducts extensive research to identify emerging startup companies that are advancing new technologies or business model innovations of strategic relevance to the energy industry. Through our investment we collaborate with industry peers with the collective goal of finding solutions to drive new revenue growth, uncover operational efficiencies and meet our customers’ evolving energy needs.
Southern Company Gas helped launch a new R&D initiative known as HyBlend to address the technical barriers to blending hydrogen in natural gas infrastructure and to study the greenhouse gas emissions of hydrogen blends. The $15 million research fund utilizes expertise and collaboration across industry partners, research consortia, academia and six national laboratories to address critical areas of hydrogen research. Southern Company’s participation in HyBlend is one of several R&D initiatives it has underway investigating hydrogen’s potential.