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Los Alamos Smart Grid 

The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is a leader in environmental innovation among utility companies, including renewable power generation and smart grid development.  The DPU produces over 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and is partnering with major international corporations, Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)  through the Japanese Ministry of Technology and Los Alamos National Laboratory on the development of new renewable energy battery storage technology and smart grid and smart house applications.

View the Video
U.S./Japan Demonstration Smart Grid in Los Alamos

Read the News
Regional, National, and International Clips on the Los Alamos Smart Grid

 

US-Japan Collaborate on Demonstration Smart Grid in Los Alamos

In 2009 as DPU was planning an innovative low flow hydro-electric power plant at Abiquiu Lake, the state of New Mexico signed an agreement with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) through the Japanese Ministry of Technology, to pursue joint projects to demonstrate smart technologies which can be difficult to test in Japan.

DPU was selected from among dozens of New Mexico utility companies to host two important research projects. The first entailed the testing of solar energy battery storage systems developed by major global corporations headquartered in Japan. The theory is that these systems will become cost-effective means to collect and store solar energy for nighttime use. The second project entailed the construction of a smart home to test appliances and systems that work with the electrical grid to optimize energy use and efficiency. Both of the NEDO demonstration projects and DPU’s own low flow hydro-electric plant are attracting worldwide interest for the “real world” application of innovative energy systems into a working utility company.

For two years American and Japanese partners have toiled together to build the Demonstration Smart Grid in Los Alamos which demonstrates how to provide a significant proportion of renewable energy on the electric grid to meet a community’s residential needs. The Demonstration Smart Grid project includes 2 megawatts of photovoltaic power (1 megawatt is built by NEDO; another megawatt is to be built by Los Alamos DPU), 8.3 megawatt hours of batteries, a micro energy management system, and a smart house which includes smart appliances that allow for electric demand in the house to be responsive to smart grid signals, minimizing potential costs and preserving the comfort of residential usage patterns. 

 Digging Deeper on Smart Grids

 Smart Community Happenings

Smart House tours can be scheduled for you or your group. Please send email to dpu@lacnm.us or contact DPU's Public Relations Office at 505.662.8002.

 Smart House Grand Opening Ceremony was held Sept. 17, 2012.

Mesa Smart Meter Study (involving 820 residents of North and Barranca Mesa)

100 Seasonal Smart Meter Study (involving 100 residents throughout Los Alamos County)

Toshiba Produces Advertisement Celebrating the Los Alamos Smart Community

Utilities Manager John Arrowsmith Speaks at International Conference in Tokyo

The Los Alamos Smart Community Brochure, revised Fall of 2013.

Why Los Alamos for new technology investment?  Visit the Economic Development page and find out.

 

 Facts About the US/Japan Partnership

1.     New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) through Japan's Ministry of Technology was a partner in the State of New Mexico’s bid to receive ARRA funds, and while the funds were not received, NEDO still decided to invest in New Mexico anyway (selecting Los Alamos and Albuquerque).

2.     NEDO invested $37 million in the Los Alamos  $52 million collaborative demonstration smart grid project with Los Alamos County’s Department of Public Utilities and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

3.     Construction portion of the project:  American and Japanese partners, together built a microgrid comprising photovoltaics, battery storage system, smart house, and smart meters.

4.     NEDO installed 1 megawatt of photovoltaics (solar array) on the Los Alamos closed landfill.  It will give Los Alamos all the energy generated from this solar array at no charge.

5.     Los Alamos will install another 1 megawatt on the closed landfill, for a total of 2 megawatts of renewable energy tied into the demonstration smart grid. 

6.     NEDO is also installing an 8.2 megawatt hour battery system to buffer intermittent renewable energy (storing the power from the solar array for use when the sun is not shining).  One of the batteries is a high storage/high performing, expensive NAS sodium sulfur battery of which there are less than 10 in the entire United States.

7.     At the end of the demonstration period (two years from now), NEDO will give to Los Alamos all of the facilities at no charge and Los Alamos will be the owner of this equipment (1 megawatt of photovoltaics; 8.2 megawatt hour battery storage system; all the smart equipment in the Smart House; and all the equipment to operate the microgrid.)

8.      Demonstration portion of the project – Los Alamos National Laboratory will collaborate with NEDO in a real-world scenario to test different scenarios which solve some of the problems with renewable energy.  These solutions could lead to the development of international standards which would ease the way for broad adoption of renewable energy sources nationally and globally.

 Why Deploy a Smart Grid?

If solar power is so clean and effective, why don't all utilities generate electricity from renewables, like the sun?

Two fundamental challenges exist for traditional energy producers in making the leap to renewables:  price and availability.  The U.S. Japan Demonstration Smart Grid Project in Los Alamos seeks to resolve those challenges on behalf of Los Alamos customers and on behalf of other utilities nationwide that are seeking real, utility-scale data for development of smart grid technologies.

Price. The siting of photovoltaic arrays near established transmission lines, the long-term infrastructure for solar power, and buffering for the intermittency of renewables to prevent grid crisis, greatly increases the price that customers pay for electricity. While coal is not the cleanest or most ideal source of electricity, it remains the dominant portion of most electric utilities' power mix because it is much cheaper.  Coal mines are typically sited near established major transmission lines; coal fired power plants' lifecycle is typically longer and more cost effective than that of solar because of coal's economies of scale, and coal-fired power is available quickly, and reliably, 24/7.  

Availability.  In fact, coal is so reliable, that it is the necessary "back-up" (or buffer) power that resolves the intermittency difficulties of solar and wind power, during cloudy days, night time, and or still days of zero wind.  Even though the preference for renewable power sources grows stronger every day in today's climate of environmental concern, the true costs of renewables and their back-up power availability make utility scale adoption cost-prohibitive for the customer.  A  new approach, using smart grids may resolve these issues.

The Los Alamos Smart Grid Demonstration project seeks to resolve the challenges of price and availability

  • by shaving peak electric demand to smooth electric loads and better match moment-by-moment supply
  • by predictably planning electric poduction, and contribution to the grid, to optimize sales price
  • by demonstrating the reliability of a high penetration of solar power (25-75 percent) within a discrete residential community.

Do you have questions about Smart Grids?  Send them to DPU@lacnm.us, and we will do our best to address them here.