With construction underway on the Denver CityNOW project – a carbon-neutral smart district incorporating numerous energy innovations – Panasonic and its partners are hoping to reveal the future of smart cities. Panasonic USA vice-president for CityNOW George Karayannis outlines the company’s vision for a smart city development plan that could work anywhere.
On the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, not far from Denver International Airport, a grand experiment is underway. Panasonic, the consumer electronics company that has been making its mark on the world of tech-driven urban design, has partnered with a consortium of local partners to transform a 400-acre patch of greenfield land into a smart district.
The project, which falls under Panasonic’s wider CityNOW smart cities initiative, was first unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2016. With around two years under the project’s belt, construction is well underway, with completion planned for 2026. The project is centred on a new light rail line that connects the area to both the airport and downtown Denver.
The project has already built a solar-powered microgrid to provide energy and back-up storage for Panasonic’s new 120,000ft² technology and operations centre, which is the anchor tenant in the development and the largest component built so far.
But a lot more is planned in the coming years, as Panasonic is working with utility stakeholder Xcel and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop what Panasonic describes as the US’s first carbon-neutral district energy plan. Other key project partners include Colorado property developer LC Fulenwider, Denver International Airport and the city of Denver.
The company considers the Denver CityNOW project as a ‘living lab’ for smart technologies and a showcase for its smart city services. But how are smart energy systems supporting the goals of Denver CityNOW, and what are the challenges involved?
“Microgrids and carbon-neutral districts are not technology challenges, these are business model challenges,” says Panasonic USA vice-president for CityNOW George Karayannis.