September 24, 2012
| by Steven Castle
How can “smart” homes use and store solar energy from their own rooftops and from a nearby solar power plant?
Answers to that question are being explored in the next two years in Los Alamos, N.M., where the Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is partnering with Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology and Development Organization (NEDO) and Japanese companies Kyocera, Sharp, NEC and Toshiba, to test smart home and smart grid systems.
A 2-megawatt solar power plant will energize about 2,000 residential sites in the high-desert community of Los Alamos. The photovoltaic system, with its 8.3-megawatt hour battery storage system, will demonstrate the ability to stabilize solar power output by reducing peak system demand as it draws electricity from the battery system at times of peak usage.
We’ll see more of smart grid-based energy storage systems that can deliver solar-generated electricity at night when the sun is longer shining and help smooth out power distribution, as having a spike in renewable energy-produced power, with its moment-to-moment power production and distribution, can wreak havoc on the grid.
To that effect, NEC is testing a transfer cut-out system that disconnects distributed energy resources from the power grid in the case of a power outage or accident and a modem unit that transfers smart meter data via high-speed powerline communications (PLC).
Smart House Demo
The 2,991-square-foot, one-story demonstration Smart House features a Kyocera hybrid home energy management system (HEMS) that uses a 16-module, 3.4-kW residential solar power generating system, a 24-kWh lithium-ion storage battery and an energy-efficient heat storage unit. The Home Energy Management System (HEMS) is equipped with communication equipment and sensors to help the Smart House optimize energy usage between the solar power generating system, storage battery, power grid and smart appliances and be responsive to smart grid signals.
Kyocera also appears to be experimenting with prototype lithium-ion batteries re-used from EV (electric vehicle) applications.
A Sharp 60-inch Quattron TV, air conditioning system, LED ceiling lights and 20-cubic-foot refrigerator can be controlled and monitored wirelessly via ZigBee technology.
Toshiba will be testing smart meter and in-home displays.
NEDO has invested $37 million in the $52 million Los Alamos smart grid project. At the end of the demonstration period (two years from now), NEDO will give to Los Alamos all of the facilities at no charge and Los Alamos will be the owner of 1 megawatt of photovoltaics, 8.2 megawatt-hour battery storage system; all the smart equipment in the Smart House, and all the equipment to operate the microgrid.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates