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penanrel U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Electric Utility, Federal Lab and Developer Forge Unprecedented Green Build Collaboration

Xcel, NREL and Panasonic point the way to forging real estate developments built around sustainability.

A developer, utility federal energy lab and a technology company today announced that they have teamed up to plan one of the nation’s biggest carbon-neutral energy developments in the shadow of the Denver International Airport.

The 382-acre  Peña Station NEXT project will be a transit hub and “living lab” for testing and improving sustainable technology and infrastructure, the project team said.

The development will include office and residential space, retail, hotel, parking and street lighting.

Xcel Energy and Panasonic Enterprise Solutions have worked closely with the real estate developer, LC Fulenwider. At its core, the project will be built around solar installations and energy storage knit together in a microgrid.

Matthew Futch, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory global business development director, heralded the unprecedented early on cooperation of multiple parties to plan an energy efficiency roll out that will be baked into the developer’s business model for the effort.

“I don’t know if it has been done at this scale, in terms of a net zero application,” he said.

Electric utilities around the nation, facing financial challenges and in pursuit of new business strategies, will be watching the Denver effort closely. "Utilities are recognizing these are the type of projects they need to get involved with," Futch said.

The new utility-customer partnership and the utility business model of the future is the focus of the Energy Times' Empowering Customers & Cities conference in Chicago November 7-8.

NREL has developed software tools that will be key to the effort, enabling energy managers to model the energy load and visualize energy use in real time to allow the utility and developer to extract maximum energy efficiency out of the project through a variety of technologies, Futch said.

“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.

Panasonic said in a press release:

“Peña Station NEXT is a planned 382-acre, transit-oriented smart city development that will also serve as a living lab and proving ground for smart and sustainable technology innovation and infrastructure. Unlike net-zero energy buildings and districts, which typically produce enough on-site renewable energy to fully offset their electricity consumption annually, Peña Station NEXT’s carbon-neutral initiative will seek to go further, by leveraging a to-be-determined suite of on-site renewable energy generation, energy storage, demand flexibility, and potentially carbon sequestration and/or carbon credits, to fully offset the district’s climate impact due to electricity generation and consumption.”

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