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FOCUS: DPU-NEDO Demonstration Smart Grid Collaboration

Editor's Note: The following "Focus" page will be updated periodically with new information on the DPU-NEDO project.


The first megawatt of Photovoltaic (PV) panels funded by NEDO installed at the site of the former Los Alamos County Landfill. Courtesy Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities.

From the Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities - DPU-NEDO Demonstration Smart Grid Collaboration webpage:

The Los Alamos Dept. of Public Utilities, Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), and the Los Alamos National Laboratory are teaming up to develop smart grid technology here - a test bed to solve the nations overburdened and antiquated power grid.  Smart grids are new-generation electrical power networks that efficiently control and balance the supply and demand of power through digital information that integrates small and large-scale renewable energy sources.

The Los Alamos Demonstration Smart Grid project will build a residential microgrid that includes:

• A 2 megawatt photovoltaic solar array at the former landfill on East Jemez Road
• A large scale battery storage system
• A demonstration smart home in Los Alamos equipped with photovoltaics, a battery, a home energy management system, and smart equipment and appliances for optimized power consumption, and
• Smart meters.

From an article on the collaborative demonstration smart grid project featured in Los Alamos Science and Technology Magazine, November 2010, "Solar Smart Grid in the Atomic City," written by Necia Grant Cooper/Los Alamos National Security, LLC.. Click image for an enlarged view.  Solar Smart Grid in Atomic City is also available in pdf format HERE.

The first megawatt grid has been install by the NEDO consortium from Japan and is expected to start officially sending power to the Los Alamos grid in the September 2012 time frame.  An RFP (Request For Proposal) will be issued by the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilties for the construction and operation of the second megawatt grid to be built on the East side of the caped Los Alamos landfill.  The NEDO consortium will operate the first megawatt grid for two years, after which the grid's operation will to turned over the the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities.

A micro Energy Management System (EMS) will be integrated into the Los Alamos electrical power distribution grid. The development of this software system is a key component of the project, allowing control of the use of energy through the "smart" electrical grid.

Watch a nine minute video produced by the Los Alamos Dept. of Public Utilities:


Other project related sources: Smart Grid Demonstration in Los Alamos - 4th Internation Conference on Integration and Distributed Energy Resources - Toshiba Corporation 2010 (pdf), 

NEDO/Los Alamos Collaborative Microgrid Research Project, Rafael De La Torre, June 15, 2011.

Los Alamos Smart Grid. Let the Demo Begin!



01 - What organizations are involved in the DPU-NEDO Collaboration Project?

Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, or NEDO, selected 19 subcontractors to participate in Los Alamos and Albuquerque projects.  In Los Alamos, participants include:

NGK Insulators
(CTC) Itochu Techno-Solutions

United States' parties to the Los Alamos Smart Grid project include the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Los Alamos DPU is leasing the former refuge site for this project from Los Alamos National Laboratory for 25 years with an option to renew the lease for another 25 years.


02 - Why did the NEDO organization choose Los Alamos for this demonstration project?

Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) chose Los Alamos for multiple reasons. First, Los Alamos has a world class scientific laboratory that will collaborate with research for the project. One goal of the project is to develop smart grid Energy Management System (EMS) Software that can manage a community-scale electric grid. Second, Los Alamos is a small American town that will make a perfect experimental community for this project given our highly educated populace that is likely to be very enthusiastic about participating in the projects smart grid development by adding smart meters and smart appliances to our own homes. Third, Los Alamos provides a testbed for more extreme conditions with our high elevation, cold winter temperatures and hot windy summers that include weather that can fluctuate rapidly from sunny to heavy clouds very rapidly. Los Alamos also provides challenges such as frequent lightning. 

The municipal status of Los Alamos' governement offers autonomy, local government control of the electric utility, the ability to adopt rules and special rates relatively quickly. LANL provides energy modeling and simulation, scientific research, data mangement, etc.

The project will seek to learn the best ways to balance electric loads using renewable resources as a large part of the electric mix. This knowledge will be imbedded into the software and systems that are developed for the project. Resulting software and systems can then be made available, in a standardized format to communities across the world.

Japan's government recognizes that smart grid technologies are likely to become important economic drivers in the future. The United State will be a key market for smart grid technologies, if these technologies can be standardized for the consumer. This demonstration project intends to help develop international industry standards for smart grid technology and photovoltaic systems.

Los Alamos and other sites in New Mexico will provide a testing ground for smart grid components that will be useful to smaller (and larger) communities across the US and world. Manufacturing companies from Japan are excited to participate in the NEDO consortium in order to learn what consumers and smaller scale utility companies need from a smart grid inorder to create a viable "smart grid" component marketplace for their future products. American manufacturers such as GE are also involved in the project.

A portion of the NEDO PV grid is devoted to testing new solar panel technologies. The test panels contributed by different companies, will be closely monitored to see how they perform under the conditions that Los Alamos' unique weather and altitude provide.

The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities is able to institute rate incentives to encourage it's customers to adopt smart grid technology without seeking New Mexico State Public Rate Commission approvals. This is another reason NEDO choose Los Alamos for one of it's demonstration test sites.


03 - How does a Photovoltaic Array work?

The Sun generates photons that stream down to earth as visible light. Solar cells convert the energy of light directly into electricity.  Assemblies of solar cells are used to make solar modules (or panels).  Six or so solar panels are typically put together on a rack that faces the sun called an array. Some racks have motors that keep them pointed directly at the sun as it move across the sky.  The DPU-NEDO racks are fixed and do not move to track the sun.

Many racks of solar panels are typically lined up into long columns and those columns form a large scale Photovoltaic Array,  "Solar Array," or Grid.  The array generates direct current (DC) electrical power. The DC power (480 volts) must be converted to Alternating Current (AC) by inverters in order for the power to be fed into transformers that setup the power to 13,000 volts for use by the Los Alamos Electrical Grid after passing through a Vista power switch.


Since there are no moving parts, the panels need little maintenance beyond periodic dusting and cleaning.

Solar cells lose about 1 percent of their power output each year as they age from enviormental exposure. The DPU-NEDO solar array has an expected useful life of 25 years.

Each rack (or tray) in the grid produces approximately 900 watts average DC.  (Each panel or module in the array produces approximately 225 watts with 6 panels per rack.)  There will be 1200 trays/racks in each 1 Megawatt grid or 2400 trays/racks total when the 2 Megawatt project is fully built.

1 Megawatt can power approximately 333 average homes, according a PNM statewide statistic.

A general solar industry rule of thumb specifies that a 9 acre solar array has the potential to produced 1 Megewatt of power.  (The former landfill site area being used for the DPU-NEDO PV Array is approximately 15 Acres.)


04 - What function does the large scale battery storage system serve?

Solar power fluctuates, depending on the weather and other factors. Increased cloud cover can cause the electric output of a solar array to suddenly drop and just as suddenly to increase, destabilizing the county's electric grid.

The large scale battery storage system is designed to help make up for this sudden drop in electric output by adding electricity to the local grid in order to stablize electricity flow. (The DPU-NEDO large scale battery storage system is charged using electricity from the Los Alamos electrical grid, not necessarily directly from the 2 megawatt solar array.  The solar array will feed electricity directly to the Los Alamos electrical grid where electrons may end up flowing to the battery and elsewhere.)

As electricity is added to the grid by the battery system, the smart grid components will reduce the loads on the grid in order to reduce electric demand temporarily. Other sources of electricity may be brought online, such as gas turbines, in order to make up for any drop in solar (or wind, if added to the grid) output.

There will be two types of battery systems tested by this project.  One is a 800 Kilowatt lead-acid battery system (2.3 MWh) and the second is a 1000 Kilowatt sodium-sulfide battery system (6 MWh). The battery systems are contained in very large recycled shipping containers that have had insulation added to them.  The containers have air conditioners and heaters.

The battery systems are designs to provide 8.2 Megawatt hours of capacity that can be added to the Los Alamos grid nearly instantly, when necessary, providing up to 1.8 Megawatts of power to the Los Alamos grid.

For more detail information on how the large scale battery storage system fits into the DPU-NEDO Demostration Smart Grid Collaboration see the article featured in Los Alamos Science and Technology Magazine, November 2010, "Solar Smart Grid in the Atomic City," written by Necia Grant Cooper.


05 - How much electricity does Los Alamos County use each day and what are its sources?

Electric power is measured in watts. A kilowatt (kW) is 1,000 watts, and a megawatt (MW) is 1 million watts.  Consumers purchase electricity in Kilowatt-hours (KWh).

If you run a 100-watt lightbulb for an hour, you've used 100 watt-hours. If you run it for 10 hours, you've used 1 kWh, for which the average US household would be billed 11 cents. (In Los Alamos, rates are lower at about 9.52 cents a kWh.)

Los Alamos County used 574,862 megawatt hours of power in Fiscal year 2011. That is 1,575 megawatts a day or 66 megawatts an hour, average.

The average house in New Mexico uses about 660 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month.  1 Megawatt can power 333 average homes, according to PNM statewide statistics.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory consumes approximately 80 percent of the power provided by the Los Alamos County DPU.


Power Sources for Los Alamos County (per hour):

In 1985 the DPU and the Department of Energy formed a power pool through an Electric Coordination Agreement (ECA).  This allowed the two entities to blend resources.  Los Alamos County's resources under the ECA are as follows:

  1. San Juan Generating Station Unit 4 (coal, 36 megawatts)
  2. Laramie River Station entitlement (coal, 10 megawatts)
  3. El Vado hydroelectric facility (hydropower, 10 megawatts)
  4. Abiquiu hydroelectric facility (hydropower, 17 megawatts - includes a new 3 megawatt low flow turbine)
  5. Los Alamos' Western Area Power Administration entitlement (hydropower, 1 megawatt)
  6. County transmission arrangements
  7. County purchased power contracts
  8. Los Alamos Nation Laboratory Western Area Power Administration entitlement hydropower (hydropower, 10 megawatts)

Source: with additional recent updates provided by the Los Alamos County DPU.

Note that hydropower is considered a renewable source of energy.

The Los Alamos County Power Pool provides up to 88.5 MW of generation resources and an additional 20 MW of power purchases administered through the Electric Coordination Agreement (ECA) between NNSA, the Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities for the purpose of providing electric power to LANL and County customers.  Source: NEPA Review - LASO 10-001 - Photovoltaic Array Reuse of Los Alamos County Landfill Location.


06 - How much of Los Alamos energy use is from renewable energy?

The State of New Mexico has mandated a renewable portfolio standard of 10 percent renewable in 2012, 15 percent in 2015 and 20 percent in 2020. This applies to public utilties. The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilties is a county owned utility and so these standards do not apply.  In any case, the Los Alamos DPU is way ahead of the state renewable mandate.

The Los Alamos County Council and the DPU Board has directed the DPU to work toward becoming carbon-neutral.  Los Alamos County currently consumes approximately 20 -28% renewable energy using DPU hydroelectric plants and federal hydropower entitlement (these figures fluctuate from year to year dependant on the amount of water that is released from dams).  Adding the new DPU-NEDO 2 Megawatt PV grid will increase the county's renewable percentage.

Out of the approximately 84 megawatts of power sources in the Los Alamos County portfolio (see the previous question),  28 megawatts is from renewable power sources, not including the LANL WAPA hydropower entitlement of 10 megawatts. Adding the LANL WAPA power, the total jumps to 38 megawatts of renewable power.  LANL and Los Alamos County have an agreement to pool electric resources. Adding the Lab's WAPA renewable power brings the county to a whopping 46 percent renewable sources.

It should be noted that the federal government only recognizes renewable energy sources that were placed into operation after 1999 as qualifying for renewable energy credits that comply with federal renewable energy goals.  (In a future update, a list of Los Alamos' qualifying sources we be presented.)

A 2 megawatt solar array, such as that being developed by the DPU-NEDO smart grid project, can power roughly 600 homes during sunny daylight hours.   

The federal government requires that the Los Alamos National Laboratory purchase 7.5 percent of its power from qualifying renewable sources in 2012. The DPU-NEDO smart grid project will help the lab meet this requirement.

The Los Alamos DPU notes that it will continue to look for more renewable opportunities.

NEDO - News Stories

International Dignitaries Tour NEDO Smart House

on September 18, 2012 - 1:46pm

Dignitaries from Japan join officials from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County, Gov. Susana Martinez and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan in Monday's NEDO Smart House Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Photo by Greg Kendall/

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Los Alamos County Council Chair Stover, NEDO Chairman Kazuo Furukawa and other dignitaries tour the NEDO Smart House Monday. Photo by Greg Kendall/

Local, state, national and international officials tour the NEDO Smart House including this garage area.

Powering Up the Los Alamos Smart Grid & Smart House

on September 11, 2012 - 11:20pm

Let the Demo Begin!  Powering up the Los Alamos Smart Grid & Smart House

By Greg Kendall

  • First international project in the U.S. to demonstrate how to provide a significant proportion of renewable power on the electric grid to meet a community’s residential needs.

A $52 million state‐of‐the‐art, international smart grid project will power up at 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17 at 1925‐D Trinity Dr. in Los Alamos, a high desert residential community of scientists, engineers and their families.

At the event, the New Energy and Industrial Technology and Development Organization (NEDO) of Japan,

Artwork Funding Approved for NEDO Smart House

on August 21, 2012 - 8:08pm

Carolyn Bossert of the Art in Public Places Board, left, and Libby Carlsten of Los Alamos County present their recommendations of artwork for the NEDO Smart House to Council. Council voted 6-0 to aprrove $15,000 be spent on artwork for the NEDO Smart House. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Art by Alexander Scheinker approved for Nedo Smart House. Courtesy Photo

Art by Umi Raby approved for NEDO Smart House. Courtesy Photo

Art by Kevin Box approved for NEDO Smart House. Courtesy Photo

Art by Minesh Bacrania approved for NEDO Smart House. Courtesy Photo



Smart House Takes Shape

on July 24, 2012 - 2:25pm

The Los Alamos County Demonstration Smart House takes shape. Photo by Greg Kendall/

Staff report

As part of the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities NEDO project, a 2,418 square foot "Smart House" is being built behind the Century Link Building (formerly Qwest) at 1925 Trinity Dr.

Framing for the building is nearly completed and a ribbon cutting ceremony for the project is scheduled for 2 p.m., Sept. 17.

The demonstration house will be equipped with 3 kW photovoltaic (solar panels), a 20 kWh battery, a home energy management system (HEMS), smart equipment and

Los Alamos Boasts First Photovoltaic System Installed on a Landfill in New mexico

on February 27, 2012 - 12:00am

NEDO has begun installing the photovoltaic system on the capped landfill adjacent to the Eco Center. NEDO will install one megawatt, and the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities will enter into a purchase power agreement for another, for a total of two megawatts on the capped landfill. This is the first photovoltaic system in New Mexico to be installed on a landfill. Photo by Julie Williams-Hill

Staff Report

Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has partnered with Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities and the Los Alamos National Laboratory on