A collaboration between the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, a government-backed R&D agency in Japan, and the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities just put together a $27 million shot in the arm to build a demonstration project that will bring utility scale photovoltaics into a smart grid, and also to build a 'smart home.'

Although we already covered some of the cool technology that could come out of the NEDO smart home demonstration, this project is also looking to dig much deeper into how to quickly and cost-effectively bring renewables onto the larger grid -- as well as how to meet the needs of a microgrid.

The collaboration will build a 2-megawatt PV facility over a capped landfill in Los Alamos County along, with a 7-megawatt-hour large-scale battery storage system. Although they are still in the planning stage, the groups are hoping to generate research that will benefit both NEDO, as well as the Los Alamos DPU. Los Alamos already produces about 28 percent hydro power for its customers, with another two percent coming from wind and solar.

More weather forecasting will also come into some of the experiments, using the Los Alamos National Laboratory weather station; the project will gather weather data to better forecast solar output. "Right now the county has power schedulers that are based on history and load," said and John Arrowsmith, utilities manager of the Los Alamos DPU. "I think weather forecasting will allow us to add more sophistication to our planning."

The project has a laundry list of partners that includes Hitachi, Kyocera, Sharp, NEC, Mitsubishi, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic and others, each of which will focus on different aspects of the demonstration. Many Japanese technology giants are shifting focus to green technology, making demonstration projects like this in export markets particularly appealing.

Optimized distribution is another focus of the tests. Japan already has a more efficient grid than the U.S., and so there are certainly many lessons to be learned, but for the Japanese, this project could help to show the capabilities of their industry in the realm of renewables and smart grid.

Although the details are still being finalized, they are planning construction in spring of 2011. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done between now and then," said Arrowsmith.