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NREL Announces Partnership with Panasonic and Xcel Energy

July 21, 2017

Project Optimizes Denver’s Peña Station NEXT Net-Zero Energy Development

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with Panasonic Corporation and Xcel Energy to simulate and optimize the energy load profile of Peña Station NEXT, a planned 382-acre mixed-use development in Denver, Colo.

The project will employ the grid modeling capabilities of NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) while demonstrating URBANopt software, a buildings and district energy modeling tool currently under development at NREL. Through this project, NREL hopes to enable a cost-effective, scalable net-zero development infrastructure that has great potential for replication and adoption across the U.S. in future developments.

“The NREL partnership with Panasonic and Xcel Energy helps deliver on our shared vision for clean, affordable, and reliable energy systems at a pace and scale that matters for our society,” said Juan Torres, NREL’s associate laboratory director for energy systems integration. “As a national user facility, the Energy Systems Integration Facility at NREL is an ideal place for both Panasonic and Xcel Energy to analyze and optimize the project’s energy master plan before construction, in a way that benefits all involved.”

The project uses URBANopt to analyze the projected dynamic energy consumption of corporate office space, retail space, multifamily dwellings, a hotel, parking, and street lighting within the planned development. The data will then be integrated into Xcel Energy’s grid distribution modeling tools to create a cost-effective design framework that the utility and developer can use to integrate more distributed energy resources, such as solar photovoltaics or efficient building systems, and innovative rate structures into the development before it is constructed.

The partners are confident the project holds great promise beyond Peña Station NEXT’s borders. Xcel Energy will consider owning and operating the necessary infrastructure to achieve carbon neutrality, potentially expanding the offering to future communities in Colorado. Panasonic is similarly interested in how it might replicate and scale carbon-neutral districts and developments across its other current and future smart city engagements through Panasonic CityNOW. NREL will share its expertise and apply the lessons learned from this project to future developments.

NREL’s ESIF is a flexible and fully integrated lab space dedicated to testing residential and commercial smart energy technologies. It is a one-of-a-kind testing space that connects appliances, electric vehicles, a home, or even a community to an end-to-end energy ecosystem. By incorporating power generation, energy storage, and dynamic energy loads into the facility, researchers can simulate and optimize real-world conditions in a controlled laboratory environment.

The concept of Peña Station NEXT aligns with the DOE’s goal to enhance the nation’s security and environmental challenges through transformative science and technology solutions. From Oct. 5-15, the new development will be the site of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition where 12 collegiate teams from around the world will test how well they did in building solar houses featuring the latest in energy-efficient design, smart home solutions, water conservation measures, electric vehicles and sustainable buildings.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.