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Feature Stories

The following feature stories take an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how NREL is advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

December 2008

December 19, 2008

See How Renewable Energy Works in Your Backyard

Whether you live in a mansion or a cottage, NREL's In My Backyard can show you which solar or wind system might be right for your home almost anywhere in the U.S. In My Backyard helps calculate solar or wind resources, the economics of renewable energy systems and answers other basic questions. Researchers now have made the online tool more informative and easier to use.

December 12, 2008

NREL to Work with Labs in China, Brazil and Germany

NREL is collaborating with laboratories on three continents to advance renewable power and fuel technologies and expand clean energy industries worldwide. The partnerships will team scientists and analysts in photovoltaics, biofuels and concentrating solar power. Expanding the lab's international profile is vital if renewable energy technologies are to reach their potential.

December 5, 2008

NREL Helps Stylish Home Use 80% Less Energy

For Sale: A new bungalow near the American River in historic Folsom, California. With NREL's help, the environmentally friendly design cuts utility bills and peak electric demand by 80 percent, yet blends into a turn-of-the-20th century streetscape. Green Builder Magazine named the bungalow Home of the Year.

November 2008

November 26, 2008

Wishing for a Renewable Future

Most kids want to visit Disney World. Not David Godfrey. The San Jose teenager wants to help others – and the planet – by spreading the use of renewable energy. With help from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the young scientist shared his innovative ideas at NREL and got the chance to shake a wind turbine blade, zip around in advanced vehicles and explore the molecular structure of biofuels organisms.

November 21, 2008

NREL, Iberdrola Launch New Solar Network

Sure, the desert is sunny. But when it comes to building a solar power plant costing hundreds of millions of dollars, finding absolutely the best sunlight can make the difference in making sufficient electrons – and a profit. NREL and industry partners have launched a new solar instrument network in the Southwest that will measure the solar resource in unprecedented detail.

November 14, 2008

Growth Forum Attracts 500 Clean Energy Backers

Participants in NREL's 21 Industry Growth Forum learned that despite current market conditions, the prospect of long-term national support for renewable energy and energy efficiency R&D and the recognition of how "green collar" jobs can drive economic recovery generate an enthusiasm for clean energy's prospects that most industries would envy.

November 7, 2008

Wind Turbines Generate Interest in Energy Careers

Teenagers in Jerome, Idaho, will flip the switch on a small wind turbine on the lawn next to their middle school this week with help from NREL's Wind for Schools program. The turbine will make electricity, but more important it can spark the imagination and inspire students to pursue careers in renewable energy.

October 2008

October 31, 2008

SolarTAC to Be Largest Commercial Solar Test Facility

Air travelers landing in Denver soon can look out on a field of glittering solar panels as NREL helps launch America's largest shared commercial solar testing facility. Energy companies and scientists will use the site to test, validate and demonstrate technologies before commercial deployment.

October 24, 2008

Wood Chips to Heat Laboratories, Save Natural Gas

NREL is switching to a sustainable, efficient source of heat using wood thinned from Colorado forests. A new boiler facility will heat laboratory buildings by burning wood chips from trees lost to pine beetles and could displace 80 percent of natural gas used to heat the campus, offsetting 4.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

October 17, 2008

Revolutionary Solar Collaboration Awards First Grants

Finding more efficient and less costly ways to directly convert the sun's energy to clean electricity and fuels will require a fundamentally new approach to solar R&D. The Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion (CRSP) has started by awarding its first research grants.

October 10, 2008

A Banner Year for Recognition, NREL Reaps 25 Awards

Director Dan Arvizu's induction in the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference Hall of Fame caps a record year of accomplishment in which laboratory researchers and their projects received more than two dozen international and national prizes.

October 3, 2008

"Limbo Lands" Could Be Revitalized with Renewables

Every state has dozens of contaminated sites that are unproductive — or even abandoned. A new analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency and NREL shows that some hold surprising renewable energy potential.

September 2008

September 26, 2008

Wind, Solar, Gas, Coal? Models Help Communities Decide

What's better to build – a new coal-fired power plant, a wind farm or a solar power plant? For communities and industries making strategic energy choices, NREL has expanded its suite of analytical tools to help determine economic impacts and make technology comparisons.

September 19, 2008

VIBE Showcases Clean Energy Decision Tools

Everyone is trying to reduce their fuel bill, but imagine if you had to fill up a fleet of 1,000 trucks? VIBE is NREL's new clean energy command center designed to marshal information and synthesize trends that industry and governments need to make clean energy decisions.

September 12, 2008

Coutts Sees Solar Efficiencies Outrace his Wildest Expectations

Twenty years ago, NREL Research Fellow Dr. Timothy Coutts scoffed at a suggestion that solar cells could be 20 percent efficient. Now poised to become an emeritus fellow, he predicts solar technology will become "omnipresent."

September 5, 2008

Islands Initiative to Put Clean Energy in Paradise

Golden sand, swaying palms, turquoise waters — it's a traveler's dream. But paradise has a price. Developed islands such as Hawaii, the Bahamas, New Zealand and Iceland rely almost exclusively on imported oil. A U.S. Department of Energy initiative with NREL aims to transform island societies into renewable energy destinations.

August 2008

August 29, 2008

NREL Research Review Touts Tech Transfer Efforts

As NREL's annual review of research accomplishments went to press, energy continued to make headline news around the globe. This year's NREL Research Review describes how the lab's innovations in a wide range of technologies from biofuels to buildings to thin-film solar cells are heading to market — right when they are needed the most.

August 15, 2008

What Renewable Energy Is Doing for Colorado and the Planet

It's hard to imagine the impact that renewable energy can have on planet Earth or in the state of Colorado — unless, of course, you've seen two of NREL's newest exhibits. One opens in downtown Denver this month, the other is spinning at NREL's Visitors Center in Golden.

August 8, 2008

Award-Winning Animation Helps Scientists See Nature at Work

Michael Crowley's cartoons are unlike anything you'll see on Nickelodeon. Crowley's animation of an enzyme vital to the production of cellulosic ethanol has won a DOE prize against competition such as models of Hurricane Katrina and nuclear combustion.

August 1, 2008

Net-Zero Energy Home Generating an Energy Surplus

This ranch home near Denver doesn't look like a power plant, but the Net-Zero Energy Home has exceeded expectations by generating more energy than it consumes. NREL built the three-bedroom home with Habitat for Humanity in 2005 to demonstrate how affordability can be combined with energy efficiency and renewable energy.

July 2008

July 25, 2008

Laboratory to Take Advanced Vehicles for a Spin

Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner announced that NREL would be home to a demonstration and research fleet of advanced vehicles in dramatic fashion — from a stage surrounded by cars and trucks featuring cutting-edge technologies. Then he took one for a spin.

July 18, 2008

Photovoltaics Innovations Win 2 R&D 100 Awards

And the envelope please...NREL has won two R&D 100 awards for photovoltaic innovations. These prizes are considered to be the "Oscars of Invention" because they spotlight the year's most significant new commercial technologies around the world. NREL has won a total of 42 of the awards since they were established 39 years ago.

July 11, 2008

NREL Director Adds Voice to Global Energy Conversation

NREL Director Dr. Dan Arvizu is a new voice in the world's increasingly urgent conversation about energy — how we make it, how we use it and its impacts on the economy and environment. In the past few months, Arvizu has been invited to sit on boards that could shape new businesses in the global public interest, stimulate scientific breakthroughs and provide thoughtful advice on energy and economic issues to U.S. and international governments.

July 7, 2008

NREL Expands Solar Testing Facility to Support Industry Growth

U.S. solar manufacturing grew by 74% in 2007, one of the fastest industry growth rates in the world. To keep up with demand, the solar industry needs larger and faster solar module testing. NREL is responding to industry needs by expanding its Outdoor Test Facility, allowing researchers to test larger solar modules — and more of them — in a real-world test lab.

June 2008

June 27, 2008

NREL Connects the West with Renewable Energy

There is a disconnect between the American West's rich renewable energy resources and the region's vast electricity grid. It's a problem that must be addressed if renewables are to help supply the nation's fast-growing communities with sufficient power. NREL is helping western states look for efficiencies.

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