While renewable energy may hold the key to the nation’s energy future, a new facility in Colorado may hold the key to the technologies themselves. Ground was broken on a new facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) which aims to speed up the time it takes to bring new technologies from the laboratory bench to commercial manufacturing.Golden, Colorado – July 29, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The 71,000-square-foot Science and Technology Facility (S&TF) will include a 10,000-square-foot laboratory dedicated to thin-film photovoltaic (PV) devices, which promise lower-cost solar power. The facility will also enable NREL to expand its research capabilities in hydrogen, solid-state lighting, superconductivity, electrochromic windows, and nanotechnologies. Speaking at a ceremony for the NREL S&TF, 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.” 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 PV, 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 building is designed to achieve a gold rating from the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. 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. In one example, energy will be recovered from the air vented from laboratories. Construction is expected to begin in the fall, and the building should be complete in 2006.