With plans for 18 million sq ft of commercial space and 37,000 homes, Albuquerque's master-planned sustainable community, Mesa del Sol, was selected as an ideal test site for a collaborative U.S.-Japanese demonstration project to examine emerging technologies that digitally control and balance power generated by various energy sources, including renewables.

Photo courtesy of Mesa del Sol
Designed by Antoine Predock, Albuquerque's Aperture Center will be the site of a U.S.-Japan study of smart grid technology.

Upon completion of Mesa del Sol's $6-million retrofit in spring 2012, the community's centerpiece, the Antoine Predock-designed Aperture Center, will be home to the three-year commercial smart-grid technology test.

“The smart-grid project has created a unique research opportunity to develop a building energy management system that will use real-time data on available power generation, available storage and active building load,” says Manny Barrera, director of engineering for Mesa del Sol. The system will optimize resources to achieve solar smoothing, peak shaving, peak shifting and islanding, he adds.

The project includes a 50-KW photovoltaic system with solar panels mounted on a shade structure above a parking lot, an 80-KW fuel cell, a 240-KW natural-gas-powered generator, a lead-acid storage battery power system and hot and cold thermal storage. All these components will interconnect with the Aperture Center through a control room and building management system, Barrera says.

“The challenge will be integrating the system into the building without interrupting ongoing operations,” says Andrew Potts, project manager for Atlanta-based general contractor Shimizu North America. Most grid components will be surrounded by a block wall in a yard behind the building. The battery components are to be housed in an electrical room.

Spearheaded by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, the project stems from a 2009 Japan-U.S. summit during which the two nations agreed to collaborate on developing smart grid technology in the U.S. The project also involves a number of Japanese firms, the State of New Mexico, Public Service Company of New Mexico, the University of New Mexico, Sandia and Los Alamos national labs, and Los Alamos County, which hosts the site of a separate residential smart grid study.  

Participants expect the study to yield significant practical insight into smart grid technology. “For Mesa del Sol, the project will be a showcase where many technologies may be extrapolated as we build out,” Barrera says. “Beyond that, there is a wide range of industry and educational opportunities that I expect the other project partners to be focused on.”