Panasonic builds a low-carbon community from the ground up

Panasonic is building a low carbon smart city just outside of Denver, Colorado. The community is being built on a 400-acre plot not far from Denver’s international airport. The city, called Peña Station Next, and marks the last stop on Denver’s new Light Rail transit line to the airport. Pena Station Next project involves a lot of solar energy and large, lithium-ion battery storage and lots of infrastructure engineered for efficiency.

The city is named after Federico Peña, a Colorado politician who was instrumental in getting the airport railway built. But plans to build out what might be dubbed America’s smartest city came squarely from Panasonic. The company picked Denver, Colorado among some 22 other finalists for its smart city development, which builds off Panasonic’s earlier smart development pilot in Fujisawa, Japan.

Source: Panasonic CityNow

Funding has come from a variety of both public and private sources: the Colorado Economic Development Commission delivered a $1.5 million grant for the project in exchange for it creating some 330 jobs averaging $89,000 per year; and the city of Denver is contributing $1.35 million in business incentive funds.

Local utility Xcel Energy will install the solar panels and grid-connected batteries for storage; The DoE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will consult on the project, which will explore carbon-reducing technologies such as common heating and cooling systems, rooftop solar, renewable natural gas (Methane) production from sewage, and a cool experiment to use the railway’s braking system to generate electricity.

Source: Panasonic CityNow

Panasonic, as the anchor tenant of the development, has constructed a “Technology and Operations Center” for its Panasonic Enterprise Solutions company, in the city. Other developers are working to bring both commercial and residential buildings to the community, spanning retailers to apartment complexes.

The project is part test bed, part economic development for what Denver mayor Michael Hancock has dubbed the “Aerotropolis, ”a modern urban “smart community” that doubles as a transit hub. Denver officials have said the project will have a huge economic impact — $82 million per year, according to some estimates.

Panasonic claims the Pena Station project is one of the most complex, and most connected, smart city projects to be undertaken in the US to date. And while many cities are now utilizing a variety of smart city solutions, Panasonic promises that by leveraging smart infrastructure in the planning process, Pena Station Next will offer a smart city development that’s connected from end to end, top to bottom.

George Karayannis, vice president of CityNow, the smart-city arm of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions, calls the community a “living lab” for smart city technologies. It’s also a good opportunity for Panasonic to test drive new smart city solutions vendors. Panasonic has picked four different companies for installing smart LED streetlights, for example, and has strategically placed the control center for those lights inside Panasonic’s building.

Here’s a quick look at some of the technology that’s being used at Pena Station Next:

  • Solar-plus-storage solutions: The project has a number of plans for integrating solar panels into various aspects of the development, including a a 1.3 Megawatt AC canopy solar installation. The community will rely on a solar and storage energy system that’ll utilize Younico’s Y.Cube modular lithium-ion battery solutions, connected to Xcel’s power grid.
  • Argonne environmental sensors: some of the street poles will be outfitted with Argonne National Laboratory’s environmental sensors, which the lab developed for Chicago’s Array of Things project. The sensors monitor things like pollution and particles in air, noise, cloud coverage, temperature, humidity, and pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
  • Autonomous bus service The Pena Station Next community will have access to autonomous shuttle service developed by EasyMile. The bus will take people to and from the Pena Station and Panasonic’s building. EasyMile, which is based in France, will open its North America headquarters inside Panasonic’s operational center.
  • Self-driving cars: Panasonic struck a deal with Colorado’s department of transportation to use a section of the nearby Interstate 70 for testing out autonomous vehicles and Panasonic’s V2X communications system. V2X facilitates communication between cars, streetlights and traffic managers.

The community will also be outfitted with fiber optic cables and high density Wi-Fi.

Panasonic and its local government partners are hoping to attract residents to the community, but construction of residential and commercial buildings have face a few delays. The development, which will take about a decade to complete, requires that all construction meet the LEED Silver Certification at a minimum. Panasonic has also promised energy tracking services that will provide “community-wide awareness,” and waste reduction services.



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