New research facility holds promise for nation's energy future
Leaders praise innovative design for NREL's first major expansion in decade
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Ground was broken July 27 on a new facility at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), designed to increase collaboration among researchers and speed the time it takes for new technologies to move from the laboratory bench to commercial manufacturing.
Speaking at a ceremony for the NREL Science & Technology Facility, national and local leaders praised the project as a far-sighted model for a laboratory of the future, and a beneficial new resource for ensuring U.S. energy security.
"This new facility will extend DOE's and NREL's research capabilities and hasten the day when we reach our goal of providing the kind of clean, affordable energy solutions that can be used by all Americans," said David Garman, DOE's acting under secretary of energy and assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Sen. Wayne Allard, who with Rep. Bob Beauprez worked to secure funding for the new facility, said, "NREL has long been an asset to Colorado and our entire nation, and this new Science & Technology Facility will be a great step forward toward increasing America's energy diversity."
Rep. Beauprez said the facility will "foster the research and development needed by the United States energy industry to be a leader in the highly competitive international marketplace. I, along with Sen. Allard, am proud to support NREL and the outstanding work it has done in the renewable energy field."
The building is being constructed at NREL's main campus, on a grassy slope of South Table Mesa adjacent to the Laboratory's existing Solar Energy Research Facility. The new facility will allow NREL to enhance its research capabilities to meet DOE's goals for advancing solar, hydrogen and other promising clean energy technologies. The research focus in the Science & Technology Facility will be on photovoltaics, but it will also enable the expansion of research capabilities in hydrogen and other promising renewable energy technologies.
NREL Director Richard Truly, who hosted the event, said plans for the facility were the result of a lengthy and deliberative process, which led to blueprints that put functionality and flexibility for researchers as top priorities.
"We have had a long-standing need for more state-of-the-art laboratory space here at NREL," Truly said, "and that's what this innovative facility will provide us. Our emphasis with this facility is squarely on shortening the time it takes to get beneficial technologies into the marketplace."
The new laboratories specifically are designed to allow researchers from a variety of different disciplines to interact and share data while they work, and include novel design features through which individual labs can be combined to form large, open spaces for collaborative research.
The Science & Technology Facility is designed to encompass advanced energy efficiency and "green building" concepts. The architecture makes good use of natural light wherever possible, and is coupled with an automated system that pares electric use by dimming unnecessary supplemental lighting. Heating, cooling and ventilation systems likewise employ many of the most sophisticated principals for energy conversation available today.
More information on the building can be found at http://www.nrel.gov.
Middle school students from area schools joined the dignitaries to wield shovels that turned the first dirt on the project. Many of these "future scientists" are past winners of DOE-sponsored science competitions, and others have participated in NREL education programs.
James Spigarelli, chairman and CEO of Midwest Research Institute, which with Battelle, operates NREL for DOE, said "It is most fitting that our sons and daughters are helping break new ground for our energy future. They are the ones who will continue what we have started here today."
Construction on the new building is scheduled to be completed in 2006.
NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's premier laboratory for renewable energy research and development and a leading laboratory for energy efficiency R&D. NREL is operated for DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle.