NREL: The Good Guys

Do we really need to be reminded that America is dependent on our enemies for energy? Or that reliance on fossil fuels may lead us to ecological catastrophe?

Apparently so. Because the news from Colorado is that the National Renewable Energy Laboratories is laying off some workers.

Already a popular conservative web site, the Daily Caller is calling the layoffs part of a “scandal” where federal money for alternative energy is automatically assumed to be wasted.

Not true.

NREL, of course, is where the Department of Energy tests and develops new materials and techniques for solar, wind and other kinds of energy. This is an important part of the backbone of our infrastructure for moving away from fossil fuels. 

NREL are the good guys. They are the ones setting standards, measuring output, and generally keeping everyone honest. NREL are the honest brokers of the renewable energy world. They do good work that people in the business depend on.

For example, I just used an NREL study the other day that talked about solar panels, and how if a leaf, shadow, bird dropping or anything else obstructs the sun to a solar array, it will destroy production in an area 36 times larger than the obstruction. This is very important to know. It helps us determine the importance, frequency and maintenance for panels. These are just two of many, many things are that are essential to this part of America’s energy business.

Today they are at the forefront of other research that measures output and reliability of solar panels from China, which is also very important because it turns out the quality can be poor, but not many people know about it after the panels are installed.

And we know that from a NREL report that provides a “non-comprehensive” list of 63 ways a solar panel can go bad. That is of particular interest to my company since we are industry leaders in solar array monitoring.

So whether you are a conservative who worries about dependence on foreign oil, or a liberal concerned about climate change, alternative energy has urgency and significance for everyone.

Everyone knows that. I just don’t know why it is so easy to forget.

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