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From the Director

A Q&A with NREL's new director, Martin Keller.

A photo of a man in a blue suit, smiling.

NREL Director Martin Keller, Ph.D.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Dr. Keller joined the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in November 2015 as its ninth director. Here he shares with Continuum his insights about clean energy innovations and market acceptance of cutting-edge technologies.

Q: How does NREL view the evolution of technology innovation?

A. Game-changing innovations respond to the marketplace. NREL’s depth of foundational science, guided by our world-class analysis expertise and deployment knowledge, paves the way for launching clean energy breakthroughs.

Q. Why is it important to demonstrate clean energy technologies in a real-world deployment environment?

A. Demonstration projects and deployment work allow us to test new concepts and technologies. Pilot testing and performance validation are essential to overcoming barriers and reducing investment risk. NREL's unique simulation research labs demonstrate real-time conditions and resulting outcomes. Industry partners seek NREL's 40 years of scientific expertise to develop technologies in labs such as solar cell efficiency and performance, biomass enzyme conversion, and microgrid simulators capable of testing grid loads and reliance, renewable energy systems, and vehicle integration. Our research sweet-spot is the capability to couple these unique research labs with our ability to help industry make informed decisions while working side-by-side with world-renowned scientists and analysts.

Q. How does NREL play a role in transforming clean energy innovation?

A. In 2015, renewable sources were the largest contributors to growth in the energy sector. The cost of solar has dropped over 80% in the past five years and wind is often the lowest cost of power in many markets. Likewise, clean energy investment is at its highest level since 2011. For the first time we’re looking at the market relative to renewable energy demand instead of working to meet the current energy supply. This fundamental shift opens marketplace opportunities in clean energy use, storage, and supply sources. NREL is equipped with the tools, expertise, and scientific knowledge to support the shifting energy sector.

Q. How will NREL’s work help meet the energy challenges of our time?

A. Today’s connected-world—smart and portable consumer products and technologies, power electronics, mobility and transportation options, and workplace and lifestyle shifts—are transforming the clean energy sector. NREL can uniquely influence and support the way we access, use, and store energy.

Our multidisciplinary knowledge, fundamental research, scientific expertise, analytical capabilities, and environmental drivers are impacting the cleantech sector. NREL leads customized partnering opportunities, fundamental renewable energy and energy efficiency research, and technology research and related analytical capabilities resulting in hundreds of patents and scientific and technology achievements. I'm excited to guide NREL's science and technology advancements and lead the lab's next-generation energy transformation.

Beyond R&D: Market Impact

Spring 2016 / Issue 9

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