LA Smart Grid project could have global impact

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Multiple-partner projects should break ground in May

By Kirsten Laskey

A top official with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) said he expects the Smart Grid project to have a worldwide impact and solve some of the challenges involved in developing a sustainable world economy.

The Smart Grid Collaborative Demonstration Project is a partnership that includes Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities and a consortium of 19 Japanese companies otherwise known as NEDO.

Tuesday, one of NEDO’s top officials, Executive Director Hiroshi Watanabe, visited Los Alamos to discuss the project.

Watanabe was joined by NEDO Deputy Director Yutaka Hayashi and Chief Representative Osamu Onodera.
Watanabe, through a translator, told the Los Alamos Monitor it was his first trip to New Mexico and Los Alamos.

Watanabe explained this project is important because it is a “demonstration test to make a large amount of renewable energy (that will be) introduced to the grid.”

Renewable energy and energy conservation are really two keys to solve the challenge of developing a sustainable world economy, Watanabe said. He added that the project is significant because Japan and the U.S. are working together to develop a world economy.

“This project will give new possibilities to the world,” Watanabe said. “I think the project is possible because the three organizations working as a partnership are utilizing each others’ strengths.”

He explained NEDO could not do this project without DPU or LANL and “by LANL and DPU’s partnership with us… the entities can actually partner with and collaborate with 19 Japanese companies’ technology.”

Watanabe said NEDO is investing a lot of money, $17 million, in the Smart Grid project while DPU is contributing the remaining $10 million of the $27 million that it will cost. DPU will do a purchase power agreement, where the developer will build the Smart Grid and DPU will purchase the electricity it generates.

What NEDO is expecting to get in return is the ability to contribute to the world economy.

Another return is to establish NEDO and get recognition in the U.S. and the world for this project.

The third return is probably the biggest one, he said. “I think the biggest return is to establish a heart-to-heart trusting relationship with Los Alamos.”

Karl Jonietz, senior advisor in LANL’s international relations, agreed the Smart Grid demonstration project has a worldwide impact.

“This project offers an opportunity for the county, NEDO and the laboratory to cooperate on a type of project and size of project that could be duplicated many times in the world,” Watanabe said.

He added the laboratory has a relationship with NEDO that goes back six years.

The two entities have collaborated on several projects and are expected to partner together in future projects.

“It’s a great opportunity to use the infrastructure and the laboratory to demonstrate to other communities what is possible with renewable energy to help address climate change and fossil fuel generation concerns,” said LANL division leader Andrew Erickson.

The project also has an impact at the local level.

During the visit, Watanabe received a presentation about the Smart Grid Collaborative Demonstration Project as well as a tour of the where the project will be located.

The project encompasses five sites in New Mexico, according to a NEDO press release. NEDO will carry out the demonstration project in two sites in Los Alamos, which include the former landfill on East Jemez Road and a location off of 1925 Trinity Drive, behind the Qwest building.

A two megawatt photovoltaic solar array will be erected on the former landfill site while a Smart Demonstration House will be built at the Trinity Drive site.

The Smart House will feature the latest construction techniques as well as smart appliances and meters that will optimize power consumption, conservation and comfort, according to the DPU website.

Other sites are expected to be in Albuquerque and other participants in the project will include state government, Sandia National Laboratory, Mesa del Sol and Public Service Company of New Mexico.

In Los Alamos, the planning and design process is about two-thirds completed. The earliest start for construction is expected to be in May.

“A lot of our customers and residents are excited about renewable energy and this is an opportunity to be set standards for renewable energy integration in our county and in the world,” DPU Manager John Arrowsmith said.

Watanabe joined the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1984 and has primarily focused on technology developments, according to a profile found on the Asahi World Environment Forum 2010 website. Watanabe served as one of panelists in the forum last year.

His duties have included assignments at the Japan Key Technology Center, the National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research, NEDO and the Environmental Bureau at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s Industrial Science and Technology Policy unit.