‘Smart Grid’ puts LA on map

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$27 million project could set new standards for altenative energy

By Garrison Wells

If alternative energy is the world’s future, the future is now in Los Alamos.

A contingent of top officials and scientists from Los Alamos, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the State of New Mexico and Japan met Wednesday to launch a multimillion dollar project expected to set new standards for alternative energy use worldwide.

The launch of the roughly $27 million Los Alamos Smart Grid project included 25 guests from the Japanese smart-grid industry and NEDO, the New Energy & Industrial Technology Development Organization.

NEDO will invest $17 million in the project and the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities is kicking in $10 million.

The contingent from Japan, the lab, DOE and Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities have joined forces to:

Build a two megawatt photovoltaic facility on a capped landfill in Los Alamos County

Build a seven megawatt hour large scale battery storage system

Build a “Smart House,” a demonstration home with the latest construction techniques, smart meters and smart appliances for optimal power consumption and for conservation and comfort.

The project, said Karl Jonietz, program manager of the lab’s Applied Energy Progam Office, will help answer the question, “how do you make solar power efficient over the long haul and do it cheaply, safely and reliably?”

Quoting Dr. Satoshi Morozumi, director of the NEDO Smart Community Department, Los Alamos County Council Vice Chair Sharon Stover said the project will draw worldwide attention to the county.

There is a payoff for Los Alamos residents.

The photovoltaic facility will be completed in 12-18 months, according to Rafael de la Torre, deputy manager of electric distribution with the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities. It will produce enough power to supply 6,000 homes and will be used to supplement the utility’s power sources.

It won’t necessarily mean lower rates, officials said. However, it will likely mean rates will stabilize and the power system will increase in reliability.

Business can get involved, too.

On its Web site, the county includes a place where Los Alamos and New Mexico vendors can get on the radar to pick up business from the project.

It puts the county on the worldwide environmental scene, said Mike Wismer, chair of the Los Alamos county council, in a written statement.

“We are pleased to be a part shaping the green utility of the world of tomorrow,” Wismer said.