Up to 20 square miles of virgin desert in New Mexico will soon be home to the nation’s newest town, only with a twist — no one will live there. Developer Pegasus Global Holdings (a communication, technology and defense contractor) and the state of New Mexico have announced plans to create a “mid-sized” smart city that they are calling The Center for Testing, Evaluation and Innovation. Details are vague, but the concept is clear enough: design a town that mirrors real cities in order to test sustainable infrastructure and technologies to see if they would work in the actual built environment without fear of disrupting real communities. Think of it as the green version of Westworld – only if something goes wrong nobody gets hurt.
Pegasus Global’s Robert H. Brumley CEO explains “The Center will allow private companies, not for profits, educational institutions and government agencies to test in a unique facility with real world infrastructure, allowing them to better understand the cost and potential limitations of new technologies prior to introduction.” The town will be built to mimic real cities with layers of different era-type buildings and transportation, with the one exception – there will be no full-time residents.
Currently, most smart grid research is based on computer simulations of real world situations. The Center provides an opportunity for companies, non profits and the government to implement and test smart grid and other technologies in a real but controlled environment and at scale. The Center aims to explore issues like smart grid security, stability, communication systems and transportation technologies.
A major sticking point in introducing emerging green technologies, such as the smart grid, at scale is the risk of trying to integrate it with existing infrastructure in real-time and avoiding disruptions. Smart grid introduction in the United States has been slower than expected, with both social and technical hurdles not clearly understood when they were implemented. The site has not been announced and it remains to be seen how large the project will become and how it will be funded, but is projected to create 350 direct jobs. To us, though, it sounds like it’s straight out of a Hollywood script.