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Smart Thinking

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Representatives of the Japanese-U.S. collaborative developing a state-of-the-art microgrid at the Mesa del Sol Aperture Center to demonstrate smart-grid technologies marked a milestone Thursday – completion of system design and construction.

With the project ready to roll, about 200 people, including state and local dignitaries and a large Japanese delegation representing participating companies from that country were on hand for a ribbon-cutting.

The endeavor is already drawing interest from people around the world, said speaker Yoichi Miyamoto, president of the Shimazu Corp., the site coordinator. Over the next several years, “We can expect many of them to visit us,” he said.

The project is being carried out by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), a quasi-government agency in Japan, in collaboration with Mesa del Sol, Sandia and Los Alamos national labs, the University of New Mexico and PNM. In addition to Shimazu, eight other Japanese firms are participating.

NEDO has budgeted $22 million for the project at the 78,000-square-foot Aperture Center to demonstrate smart-grid technologies in a commercial area. A separate demonstration of a residential smart grid is slated to go on line later this year in Los Alamos.

Smart grids are new-generation electrical networks intended to efficiently control and balance supply and demand of power with digital information. A main challenge is improving the electric grid to accommodate the large-scale introduction of renewable energy.

The project includes a 50-kilowatt photovoltaic system and utility yard that includes an 80-kilowatt fuel cell and 240-kilowatt natural gas-powered generator, as well as a lead-acid storage battery power system and hot and cold thermal storage. The various energy resources will be controlled by management systems that can respond to demand and supply signals from the existing grid.

“This project highlights what our institutions can achieve together to advance state-of-the-art smart grid technologies,” Sandia vice president Richard Stulen said.

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