Smart House project finds home

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High tech facility to be erected on Lavy Lane

By Kirsten Laskey

Progress is pushing forward on the county’s Smart Grid and Smart House demonstration projects. John Arrowsmith, manager of the Department of Public Utilities, said the house will be located on Lavy Lane near the Los Alamos Public Schools’ administration building and east of the county’s switch gear building.
“This particular site was chosen because we thought there would be a lot of visitors and a lot of traffic and we didn’t think it was appropriate to have it in a residential area,” Arrowsmith said.
Anne Laurent, director of the county’s Capital Facilities and Projects Department said Mullen-Heller of Albuquerque will be the architect after submitting a bid of $32,000, the lowest of five.
“The house is supposed to be of a typical size and function for a Los Alamos home,” Laurent said.”We determined that size to be a three bedroom (building) around 2,000 to 2,500 square feet. It will have a garage component and that will be used for housing some of the bigger pieces of equipment as well as an orientation area for visitors.”
A solar array will be installed on the roof and the house will contain a 24-hour capacity battery as well as a smart meter, Arrowsmith said. The house also will contain smart appliances, which will communicate with the Smart Grid. The grid will transmit messages to the appliances regarding electricity usage levels and the appliances will respond, he said.
Arrowsmith said the house will be fairly conventional; however the architect will be responsible for accommodating the house’s technology as well as making the house movable. There is a chance the house could be sold and moved to another location. As a result, Arrowsmith said the house would be disassembled, moved to another site and then reassembled.
The county will meet with Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which is a partner in the project along with Los Alamos National Laboratory, to coordinate floor plans and equipment placement, Laurent said, before applying for a temporary use permit through the Community Development Department.
In addition to the Smart House, a one-megawatt photovoltaic solar array will be constructed at the old landfill on East Jemez Road along with the battery storage system, which will be tied to the Circuit 16 in Barranca Mesa and North Mesa, Arrowsmith said. The Smart House also will be tied to Circuit 16.
Arrowsmith explained there are a number of objectives associated with this project.
“One of them is to demonstrate a high penetration of renewable energy into a residential grid,” he said. ”So approximately half of the power feeding into Circuit 16 would come from the solar array.”
Other objectives include”the ability to predict the output of the solar array based on weather. They also want to demonstrate — how appliances communicate with the grid,” he said.
Although the three entities are involved in the project, Arrowsmith said the county will operate the Smart House and Smart Grid.
He added once the two-year project is wrapped up, the county will receive full ownership of the demonstration facilities. At that time, the county will perform another demonstration project, partner with other entities or sell the project and move it.
The solar array and battery are worth several million dollars and have a life expectancy of 15-20 years, he said.
NEDO has invested $17 million in the project.
“I think it’s an exciting project and I think it might bring some economic opportunity to the county and it will help us design our electric grid for the future,” Arrowsmith said, adding that while Smart grids are in operation throughout the world, there are some unique aspects to the one that will be in Los Alamos such as the high penetration of renewable energy.
Arrowsmith explained the project would be able to carry a large amount of the energy load in the Barranca and North Mesa area. He said the load for the Barranca and North Mesa area is 1.8 megawatts and approximately half that will be provided through solar energy.
The Smart Grid and Smart House are planned to be operational by fall.