Golden's NREL Powerful Force in Renewable Energy Research
With rising energy costs and concerns in the forefront of many consumers’ minds, there is cause for optimism in knowing that a Golden laboratory is pitting some of the world’s top scientists against the challenges of energy production.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is the nation’s primary lab for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. The lab’s signature building, a stair-stepped, metal-adorned Solar Energy Research Facility, sits on the main 327-acre campus on South Table Mountain and is a familiar landmark for travelers on Interstate 70.
But, even during times when Americans weren’t as concerned about energy consumption and costs, NREL’s scientists were working to improve existing techniques and create new ways of generating renewable energy sources.
The laboratory, initially called the Solar Energy Research Institute, was established in 1974, and the facility opened in Golden in 1977.
“Whether these things were in the public eye or not, NREL has always been here working on energy solutions,” says an NREL spokesman. “Recent events have fueled a public perception that energy does matter, and how you get energy and what you pay for it matters.”
As the principal research laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the facility has 50 areas of scientific investigation.
Many experts agree that renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are the keys to creating a clean energy future for the world, and much research is conducted here on wind energy and solar and biomass powers.
With about a $200 million annual budget, the Jefferson County campus has 1,000 employees and more than 375,000 square feet of lab and office space.
NREL also operates the National Wind Technology Center on 307 acres on the Boulder County border, and its visitors center is open to the public with exhibits, literature, energy-related programs and other presentations.
“Jefferson County is a great place for this type of lab because Colorado attracts some of the best minds and scientific talent in the world – and the existing workforce here tends to be highly educated,” a spokesman says. “Community support here helped bring to Golden the nation’s only laboratory dedicated solely to renewable energy and energy efficiency.”