The Birth of the Net-Zero Energy Community

Sandia National Laboratories and Forest City Enterprises – Partnering for a Secure and Sustainable Energy Future

In Albuquerque, N.M., a smart grid-solar-energy storage project backed by a consortium of Japanese giants is testing out a key element of the  net-zero energy community: how to harness mass-market solar to balance the grid inside and outside the neighborhood’s borders. This project could take the claim of the first fully functioning microgrid in the country, said Manny Barrera, Mesa Del Sol’s director of engineering.

Renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, coupled with smart grid and microgrid technologies, energy storage, and energy efficiency are viable options to address the problem of system integration. However, integrating these systems require full understanding of operational challenges and establishing a return on investment.

To address these challenges, Sandia National Laboratories and Forest City Enterprises are collaborating to advance research and provide real-world test beds to Mesa del Sol project. As the centerpiece of the venture is the 78,000-square-foot Aperture Center which has been set up to run on its own solar power with its 440-kilowatt peak load covered by a 50-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, an 80-kilowatt fuel cell, a 240-kilowatt natural gas powered generator and a 160-kilowatt-hour battery storage system.

The technology — and funding — comes via Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which is investing about $10 million in the Mesa Del Sol project as well as U.S. private and government funding.

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