Public Power Daily Logo

Los Alamos attracts energy research, investment

From the January 17, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published January 17, 2014

Before Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer selected it for the site of his top-secret Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, N.M., was home to an exclusive boarding school that provided a rigorous outdoor experience and a classical education to the young sons of wealthy families.

The school’s buildings were appropriated by the federal government in 1942, according to an article by Jeanne LaBella in Public Power magazine. The following year Oppenheimer began work on the project that developed the atomic bomb that ended World War II with the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. After the war, Los Alamos National Laboratory remained on the site and Los Alamos was a gated government town for the following two decades. It was 1968 before the consolidated county-city government was established. When that happened, residents opted to have the local government operate the electric, gas, water and wastewater utilities.

Today, the lab accounts for 80 percent of the utility’s electric load and the community born of the need for sophisticated scientific research is broadening its legacy. The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities is host to a smart grid demonstration project carried out by several Japanese companies working with "NEDO," the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, part of Japan’s Ministry of Trade.

Most of the $52 million investment in the project came from the Japanese government, Los Alamos County Utilities Manager John Arrowsmith told the magazine. The associated companies built a 1-megawatt solar array on an eight-acre site atop a former county landfill. Solar photovoltaic collectors from several manufacturers are installed on the site to allow the researchers to compare different brands. A large battery system at the site is used to stabilize solar power supplies through a micro energy management system.

Find out more about innovation in Los Alamos in "A Plateau for Energy Research," on

Subscriptions to the electronic and print editions of Public Power and all other APPA periodicals are free to all employees and governing board members of APPA member utilities and associate members. An online subscription signup form is on


Be the first to rate this item!

Please Sign in to rate this.


  Add Your Comment

(1000 of 1000 characters remaining)

Senior Vice President, Publishing 
Jeanne Wickline LaBella

Editorial Director
Robert Varela

Editor, Public Power Daily
Jeannine Anderson

Communications Assistant
Fallon W. Forbush

Manager, Integrated Media 
David L. Blaylock

Integrated Media Editor 
Laura D’Alessandro