Reaching Out: NREL Community Connection

Welcome to the Winter 2022 Reaching Out: NREL Community Connection Newsletter.

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In This Edition

Celebrating Dr. King at NREL

RAIL/Construction Update

NRELians Donate Record Amount to Surrounding Communities

Spotlight: Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, Alaska

Educational Opportunities

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day at NREL

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, NREL's Black Employee Resource Group chose the theme "Energy Justice in Underserved Communities" for this year's MLK Day celebration.

The following video shows how NREL continually celebrates Dr. King's legacy by creating clean, affordable energy systems for all communities. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," Dr. King said.

At NREL, we continue toward a just energy future for all.

Text version

NREL Ramps Up Progress on New Laboratory on South Table Mountain Campus

NREL has celebrated more milestones on the construction of our new Research and Innovation Laboratory (RAIL). Site utility work is almost complete, and mass excavation is well underway. In December, the building's foundations began to take shape with caissons and grade beams going into place, which continued into January. In February, steel will start to go up as the building continues to develop.

When completed in fall 2022, RAIL will be a flexible, multipurpose lab space that supports cross-disciplinary research in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Throughout construction, here's what our neighbors can expect:

  • Construction work hours of 7 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Monday–Friday*
  • No anticipated work on weekends or evenings*
  • No anticipated road closures
  • No anticipated impacts to utilities (water, gas, electricity) in the surrounding neighborhoods.

*Although we do our best to keep to this schedule, there may be occasional work on evenings or weekends due to inclement weather or extenuating circumstances. If changes occur, we will make all efforts to minimize disruptive impacts to NREL's neighboring communities.

Please contact us with questions at

NREL Employees Raise $675,000 for Surrounding Communities in 2021

Thanks to numerous initiatives throughout 2021, NREL employees continued the laboratory legacy of supporting surrounding communities by raising $675,000 in 2021, all of which will support local charities in Colorado, Alaska, and Washington D.C., where NREL offices are located.

Throughout the year, staff volunteered, engaged in toy and food drives (while following COVID-19 safety guidelines), and engaged virtually in summer events. Our larger Giving Campaign takes place every November and December and culminates in a silent auction, where employees bid on items and experiences donated by fellow employees.

The Giving Campaign is designed so each NRELian can support the causes they are passionate about. When they make individual pledges, they also decide which organization each pledge goes toward. NREL employees donated to 449 causes in 2021, spreading resources to different categories of charities.

NREL Expands to the Last Frontier

Did you know that NREL has expanded to the Last Frontier?

In 2020, NREL merged with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) in Fairbanks, Alaska, which aims to make buildings more efficient, healthy, and affordable.

Research projects include evaluating air-source heat pumps in a -40°F cold chamber to learn how the technology can be expanded in extreme climates to allow more people to save on energy costs and reduce carbon emissions. CCHRC also helps rural tribes and communities harness building technologies to enhance their economies, be it through designing kit homes that can be assembled on site or using timber from local forests to produce their own log homes. However, sometimes it can be as simple as answering the phone and talking to a local homeowner who is worried about their roof after a heavy winter storm.

As Bruno Grunau, CCHRC's regional director, explained, the Village Council in Unlakleet, Alaska, did just that:

"(They) informed us they needed affordable housing for their elders and young people but also needed availability to more jobs," Grunau said. "So we built the most expensive parts of the homes in our laboratory, while leaving the rest of the home to be built by local workers. It's not just a house, it's an engine for the local economy."

CCHRC's approach encompasses science and engineering, economics and social analysis, and deployment and education—always making sure community voices and culture are at the heart of technologies. Learn more about CCHRC.

Educational Opportunities

NREL's education programs promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) using clean energy technologies to capture student interest. Our team is offering a new opportunity for students in grades 4–12 to connect with NREL staff. If you are interested in participating in the Exploring STEM w/NREL series, where you will hear a short education- and career-focused talk from an NREL scientist or engineer followed by a demonstration of their work, contact Meghan Pearson.

NREL is also recruiting volunteers for the 32nd annual Colorado Regional High School Science Bowl on Saturday, March 12, where some of Colorado's most exceptional students test their knowledge of STEM content in a fun, fast-paced tournament. If you are interested in volunteering for this Department of Energy-sponsored event, fill out our registration form.

Join NREL for the virtual Public Campus Experience on the second Friday of every month from 10 to 11:30 a.m. MT. Learn how NREL is transforming energy through research, development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Register for the next experience.