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The Energy Analysis at NREL newsletter highlights the lab's analysts and analysis activities in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are having an impact on U.S. energy goals. The newsletter features recent publications and websites, updates to our models and tools, and staff activities. You can subscribe to receive the newsletter monthly by email.

September 2015

Sustainable Transportation: Moving People and Goods in Ways that are Cleaner, Greener, Smarter

A new brochure highlights how NREL is applying its analytical expertise and imagination to make our transportation system cleaner and more cost effective. Sustainable Transportation: Moving People and Goods in Ways that are Cleaner, Greener, Smarter addresses the toll transportation currently has on the environment and how NREL is applying systems thinking and newer technologies to its three-pronged strategy of 1) cleaner fuels, 2) greener vehicles, and 3) smarter networks. The brochure maintains that making connections between physical components—vehicles, fueling stations, and highways—and institutional components—traffic laws, regulations, and vehicle standards—helps illuminate solutions that address the needs of the transportation system's numerous stakeholders.

For more information on NREL's analysis and decision support capabilities, visit

A spiral disk styled like a Gann chart that visualizes the three-pronged strategy to reduce CO2 emissions described above and lists research areas related to fuels, vehicles, and smarter networks.

Combining clean fuels, greener vehicles, and smarter networks offers potential to reduce the CO2 emissions of the transportation sector

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Sector Increasing Use of Renewable Energy

The percentage of renewable electricity purchased by U.S. companies in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector is growing and will likely increase significantly by the start of the next decade, according to a first-ever analysis by NREL.

The report, Renewable Electricity Use by the U.S. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry, includes case studies of renewable energy purchased by companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, and other key industry figures.

"The ICT sector is a big consumer of electricity in the United States," NREL Senior Energy Analyst Jenny Heeter said. "ICT companies are increasingly making long-term commitments to renewable generation, such as through 20-year power purchase agreements." These long-term commitments often support the development of new renewable-energy generators near new data centers.

The report was covered in Energy and Technology Magazine's article "Renewables could power half the IT industry by 2020," in a Renewable Energy World article, and in an NREL press release.

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News

U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis was cited in The Energy Collective's article "First Offshore Wind Farm in the United States Begins Construction."

Eric Lantz was quoted in a Wind Systems' article titled "MARKET DIRECTORY: 2015-16 U.S. Wind Energy Market Outlook."

Land-Use Requirements of Modern Wind Power Plants in the United States was cited in GreenTech Media's article "New NREL Data Suggests Wind Could Replace Coal as Nation's Primary Generation Source."

An article by Paul Denholm and Robert Margolis was cited in a Yale Environment 360 article titled "In Clash of Greens, a Case for Large-Scale U.S. Solar Projects."

David Feldman was quoted in the Wall Street Journal's article "Solar-Power Sharing Programs May Be Poised to Take Off."

Recent Publications

Presentation: Developing the Next Generation of Gridded TMYs
Authors: Aron Habte, Manajit Sengupta, and Anthony Lopez

This presentation provides background information as well as a summary of typical meteorological year (TMY) gridded data sets.

Presentation: Photovoltaic System Pricing Trends: Historical, Recent, and Near-Term Projections (2015 Edition)
Author: David Feldman, Robert Margolis, Donald Chung, Ran Fu, and Carolyn Davidson, NREL; Galen Barbose, Mark Bolinger, Joachim Seel, and Ryan Wiser, LBNL

This presentation, the fourth edition from this series, provides an overview of historical, recent, and projected near-term PV pricing trends in the United States, focusing on the installed price of PV systems. The authors provide clarity surrounding the wide variety of potentially conflicting data available about PV system prices.

Conference Paper: A System-of-Systems Approach for Integrated Energy Systems Modeling and Simulation (Preprint)
Authors: Saurabh Mittal, Mark Ruth, Annabelle Pratt, Monte Lunacek, Dheepak Krishnamurthy, and Wesley Jones

The authors describe the Integrated Energy System Model (IESM) being developed at NREL. IESM is a system-of-systems (SoS) simulator that combines constituent systems in a virtual testbed. The authors describe an SoS approach for developing a distributed simulation environment and elaborate on the methodology and the control mechanisms used in the co-simulation illustrated by a case study.

Conference Paper: Geothermal National Environmental Policy Act Database on Publicly Available Open Energy Information Website
Authors: Kate Young and Aaron Levine

This paper describes how NREL developed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Database as a platform for government agencies and industry to access and maintain information related to geothermal NEPA documents, and how developers and agencies can save time on new NEPA reports by accessing a single location to research related activities, their potential impacts, and previously proposed and imposed mitigation measures.

Conference Paper: Geothermal Permitting and NEPA Timeline Analysis
Authors: Kate Young, Kermit Witherbee, Aaron Levine, Adam Keller, Jeremy Balu, and Mitch Bennett

The authors outline NEPA-related analyses and approvals (e.g., environmental assessment) as well as examples of geothermal development activities (e.g., well drilling), including an overview and discussion of the specific permits. They identify proven and potential strategies that can assist geothermal projects by lowering the time necessary to navigate the NEPA process while maintaining the efficacy of the federal environmental review intact.

Conference Paper: Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop (RAPID) Toolkit
Authors: Kate Young and Aaron Levine

This paper explains the RAPID Toolkit, which combines the former Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap, NEPA Database, and other resources into a Web-based tool that gives the regulatory and developer community rapid and easy access to permitting information. RAPID currently contains five tools—Permitting Atlas, Regulatory Roadmap, Resource Library, NEPA Database, and Best Practices.

NREL Report: Domestic Material Content in Molten-Salt Concentrating Solar Power Plants
Authors: Craig Turchi, Parthiv Kurup, Sertaç Akar, and Francisco Flores

The authors estimate that, in the United States, 90% by mass and 79% by value of the commodity materials utilized in a CSP plant can be supplied by domestic sources. The researchers also found that the material content of a molten salt-HTF trough plant was roughly 25% lower than a comparably sized conventional oil-HTF parabolic trough plant. It is expected switching to a molten salt-HTF design would then decrease the overall capital cost and LCOE of a CSP parabolic trough system.

NREL Report: Energy Efficiency Under Alternative Carbon Policies: Incentives, Measurement, and Interregional Effects
Authors: Dan Steinberg, NREL; Erin Boyd, EPSA

In this report, the authors review how alternative policies, namely tradable mass-based polices and tradable rate-based policies, create different incentives for energy efficiency investments. They show that, as a result of the output subsidy they create, rate-based policies reduce the incentive for investment in energy efficiency measures relative to an optimally designed mass-policy or equivalent carbon tax, but that this can be partially corrected. The authors also identify some challenges to implementing a rate-based policy with efficiency crediting.

NREL Report: The Relative Economic Merits of Storage and Combustion Turbines for Meeting Peak Capacity Requirements under Increased Penetration of Solar Photovoltaics
Authors: Paul Denholm, Victor Diakov, and Robert Margolis

This paper offers considerations for utilities considering new capacity. It discusses how, even when compared to state-of-the-art highly flexible combustion turbines, batteries can provide a greater operational value, which is reflected in a lower system-wide production cost. By shifting load and providing operating reserves, batteries can reduce the cost of operating the power system to a traditional electric utility, which means batteries can have a higher cost than a combustion turbine of equal capacity and still produce a system with equal or lower overall life-cycle cost.

White Paper: Renewable Electricity Grid Integration Roadmap for Mexico: Supplement to the IEA Expert Group Report on Recommended Practices for Wind Integration Studies
Authors: Brian Parsons, Evergreen Renewable Consulting; Jaquelin Cochran, Andrea Watson, Jessica Katz, and Ricardo Bracho, NREL

Since 2010, the U.S. government has supported the Government of Mexico's efforts to reduce emissions and address climate change by partnering with them under the Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategies program and with the U.S. Agency for International Development and NREL. This paper details the creation of a grid integration roadmap for renewable energy for Mexico.

Brochure: Reaching 100% Renewable Energy
Author: Joyce McLaren and Michael Callahan

This brochure describes the NREL analysis and process in assisting the City of Aspen in attaining its goal of 100% renewable energy.

Fact Sheet: Greening the Grid: The Role of Storage and Demand Response
Author: Paul Denholm

This fact sheet addresses storage and demand response, which can provide means to better align wind and solar power supply with electricity demand patterns: storage shifts the timing of supply, and demand response shifts the timing of demand.

Poster: Automated Analysis of Renewable Energy Datasets
Authors: Brian Bush, Ryan Elmore, Dan Getman, Danny Inman, and Eric Kalendra

This poster illustrates methods to substantially improve the understanding of renewable energy data sets and the depth and efficiency of their analysis through the application of statistical learning methods ("data mining") in the intelligent processing of these large information sources.

For the latest updates on information regarding energy analysis, visit the Energy Analysis website. You can also subscribe to the Energy Analysis at NREL newsletter using our simple online form.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to provide credible, objective data and insights that inform policy and investment decisions as energy efficient and renewable energy technologies advance from concept to commercial application. NREL analysis encompasses a broad range of scientific research and reporting activity in support of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), NREL programs and initiatives, and the analysis community.