Bioenergy, Geothermal, Solar, Storage, Utility Scale, Wind Power

Recovery Act Money Invested at NREL

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu made his first visit to NREL as secretary an especially memorable one — announcing $110 million in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

More than $100 million will accelerate construction of the Laboratory’s Golden, Colo., campus, dramatically expanding NREL’s capacity for renewable energy research and partnerships while showcasing some of the world’s most energy efficient buildings.

An additional $10 million has been designated for improvements at the Laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center near Boulder.

“These investments are an unmistakable signal from DOE about the Laboratory’s central role in advancing President Obama’s clean energy agenda,” NREL Director Dan Arvizu said. “It is a significant investment in NREL’s future.”

Secretary Outlines Energy Efforts

Secretary Chu announced the new funding in an hour-long presentation to Laboratory staff and elected officials. He outlined the administration’s efforts in its first 100 days to streamline DOE procedures and loan approval for $26 billion authorized for clean energy projects nationwide since mid-February to create green jobs and promote economic recovery.

And, he reiterated the administration’s goal of doubling the percentage that renewable energy contributes to the nation’s electricity supply by 2012 — from 5 to 10 percent.

“The goal is to set America on a course for a secure and sustainable energy future,” Chu said.

At the same time, Secretary Chu said, a new generation of renewable energy technologies must be developed to stem potentially devastating climate changes driven largely by carbon emissions generated by fossil energy consumption.

Chu outlined the hurdles in several categories where the Laboratory already performs critical research, including efficient building design, solar energy and improved energy storage for both personal vehicles and utility-scale power systems.

“It’s a start,” Chu said of the new investments. “By 2050 we need to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent or more. To reach that goal we will need transformative new technologies.”

Details of Recovery Act Funding

The Recovery Act funding to the Laboratory includes:

— $68 million to complete the Research Support Facilities that are currently under construction, including a second phase known as RSF II. With completion scheduled in 2010, the 218,000 square foot complex will be the nation’s most energy-efficient office building and a showcase of integrated, high-performance design, achieving LEED platinum certification and reducing energy use by 50 percent over standard commercial office buildings.

— $19.2 million for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements to the campus, including additional onsite solar arrays and the potential addition of geothermal and fuel cell power sources. This investment allows the Laboratory to replace conventional power purchased from utilities, reduce the purchase of renewable energy credits and lower the Laboratory’s carbon footprint.

— $13.5 million to expand and improve the Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility. The new funding will expand NREL’s biomass-to-ethanol research capabilities at the current Alternative Fuels User Facility by allowing the Laboratory to work simultaneously on multiple projects with multiple partners.

— $10 million for improvements at the National Wind Technology Center, including doubling the capacity of the existing dynamometer to 5 MW to test the performance and reliability of the latest generation of large wind turbine drive trains. By producing variable speeds and torque levels, the dynamometer simulates extreme winds and other performance conditions and compresses 30 years of turbine use into a few months of endurance testing. The funding also pays for improvements to the NWTC’s electrical distribution systems so that electricity generated by new utility-scale wind turbines tested at the center can be captured to power the center itself and even exported to local utilities.

Joseph B. Verrengia writes for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

This article originally appeared as a National Renewable Energy Laboratory news article and was reprinted with permission.