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Smart grid effort

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Japan sponsors experimental energy resesarch

By Roger Snodgrass

POJOAQUE — The Japanese government has launched a four-year, $30-million research program in New Mexico to demonstrate green grid technology. A large share of the work will be done in Los Alamos, involving both county utilities and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Corporation (NEDO) held a signing ceremony Friday with 70 representatives from 31 Japanese companies, along with state and local officials and representatives of LANL and Sandia National Laboratories and private companies in New Mexico.

An earlier proposal has been restructured over the last several months after a state bid for $59 million in Department of Energy stimulus funding failed to materialize. Some of the features of that project will be incorporated into the new collaboration.

As outlined in the preliminary agreements the project will include two new photovoltaic power plants — a 100-kilowatt photovoltaic solar system in Mesa del Sol, a planned community in Albuquerque, and a 2-megawatt photovoltaic plant in Los Alamos that will be built over the former landfill.

The Los Alamos system is expected to test ten different solar technologies and includes research in how to make alternative energy systems compatible and attractive to consumers.

“Los Alamos is uniquely positioned because we generate our own electricity and have water,” said Mike Wismer, chair of the Los Alamos County

Council, who participated in the ceremony, along with John Arrowsmith, manager of the Los Alamos County Public Utilities Department.

“The challenge is how to make alternative energy sources usable,” Wismer said. “They believe the technology exists, but to put it all together is important.”

Los Alamos Site Office Manager Don Winchell and Karl Jonietz, LANL’s renewable energy program manager spoke briefly about land that the lab will make available for the project.

NEDO expects to invest on the order of $17 million in Los Alamos and $10 million on a battery system, with additional funds for demonstrating features of the smart-metering and large scale distribution of power.

In the last week, the Japanese companies were asked to refine their proposals to match the situation on the ground in Albuquerque and Los Alamos, where the bulk of the program is expected to take place, said Tom Bowles, Gov. Bill Richardson’s science advisor.

“We have all been talking in general terms until this week,” John Arrowsmith said. “NEDO has come up with the idea and has the funding. Now they are making the decisions about who is going to do what. There are still a lot of blanks to fill.”

The Los Alamos project will include a battery that will hold

1 megawatt of capacity for seven hours.

“It weighs 95 tons and is the size of a tractor-trailer trailer,” he said.

Bowles, the former chief science officer at LANL, is on loan to the governor’s office.

“You have to do these demonstrations to convince the Public Regulator Commission and the public that this works,” he said. “Why can’t New Mexico be the center of developing this technology?”

According to the long-term vision, this kind of project will develop local educational and training opportunities as well, which will in turn attract investment in central aspects of green grid technology that is expected to transform much of the current system for generating and distributing electrical energy.

NEDO is an incorporated administrative agency that does research and development projects focused on alternative energy technology and energy efficiencies. It is headquartered in Kawasaki City and employs about 1,000 people.