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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 2009

December 18, 2009

New Labs to Concentrate on Solar Thermal Energy

DOE funds facilities to advance concentrating solar power technologies; global capacity could reach 20 gigawatts by 2020.

December 11, 2009

NREL Works with Truckers to Reduce Fuel Use

Excessive idling of trucks has been identified as a source of wasted fuel; NREL is working with the trucking industry to find big savings.

December 7, 2009

NREL Sets the Bar for Office Building Energy Use

When DOE decided on a new office building, it asked NREL to set a new energy use benchmark. The resulting Research Support Facility does that and more.

November 2009

November 30, 2009

NREL Breaks Down Walls for Biofuels

NREL researchers are racing to come up with better and less expensive ways to make ethanol from cellulosic biomass. But they are hitting a wall—cell walls in plants that make the production of cellulosic fuels a challenge. So, laboratory scientists are creating their own computer program to help model and break down the tiny cellulose fibers found in plant cells.

November 20, 2009

NREL Uncovers Clean Energy Leaders State by State

That California and Texas still lead the United States in generating renewable energy probably is no surprise. But, NREL's 2009 State of the States report shows that several smaller states from Maine to Louisiana to Utah are closing the clean energy gap, confirming that every state has renewable energy potential.

November 13, 2009

Eco-Friendly SUV Gets a Hydrogen Mileage Boost

Driving hydrogen fueled SUVs for 431 miles per fill-up is no longer a California dream. Researchers from NREL and Toyota recently completed a 331 mile round trip drive between Torrance and San Diego in two Toyota Highlander Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles. And, with the fuel remaining, those SUVs easily crossed the 400 mile mark.

November 6, 2009

Generation-Y Start-up Stuns NREL Growth Forum

Foam shipping materials made from fossil fuels do a righteous job of protecting your new flat screen TV, but are brutal on the environment. Two Generation-Y entrepreneurs won the 2009 NREL Clean Energy Growth Forum with an organic, low-carbon technology using mushroom fibers to protect your most precious stuff.

October 2009

October 30, 2009

Building Panels Protect, Provide Comfort

The exterior skin of NREL's newest building will do more than keep the weather out. The concrete panels actually will be part of the Research Support Facilities' heating and cooling system. It's an old idea brought back to life in the name of energy efficiency.

October 23, 2009

Largest Wind R&D Study Underway at NREL

Gusting Colorado winds recently helped usher in a new milestone for wind technology research and development. NREL and Siemens Power Generation "flipped the switch" starting the blades on a 2.3 megawatt wind turbine installed as part of a R&D agreement for testing turbine aerodynamics, structure and reliability.

October 16, 2009

It Takes a Solar Village

Rain didn't ruin the 2009 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C. University teams successfully operated 20 net-zero, grid-connected solar power homes for a week on the National Mall. Some used more power-generating solar panels; others relied on energy efficiency strategies. The winner was clean energy.

October 9, 2009

Software Helps Design Energy Stingy Buildings

A new quick, easy to use and free software tool created by NREL developers seamlessly combines the building energy simulation of EnergyPlus with the popular drawing interface of Google's SketchUp, helping architects design healthier structures with fewer carbon emissions and lower utility bills.

October 2, 2009

Conference Tackles Interstate Transmission

The U.S. electricity grid is strained to its limit, and the nation's windiest and sunniest places are rarely near cities that generate high demand. Finding ways to string new power lines across several states is a challenge for even the most creative regulators and energy analysts determined to increase America's use of renewable energy.

September 2009

September 25, 2009

Weathering System Cuts Product Testing Time

Engineers design a new auto paint, a better solar device or a sturdier vinyl siding. But how can they know if the new products deserve a five-year, 10-year or 30-year warranty? Better a leap in technology than a leap of faith. Scientists at NREL have come up with a way, the Ultra-Accelerated Weathering System.

September 18, 2009

NREL Team Tests Higher Ethanol Fuel Mix

Going on a diet can be good for you. And maybe a gasoline "diet" of traditional fuel blended with increased levels of ethanol will be good for the environment and economy without hurting cars and small engines. Researchers are trying to find out because new ethanol blends could play a starring role in reducing petroleum use.

September 11, 2009

Award-Winning Battery's Secret is 'Buried'

An innovative microbattery based on a NREL team's inspired digression already is bringing home major awards. But those involved with the buried anode rechargeable battery's ongoing development say the technology's greatest promise is as a building block for big batteries powering vehicles and storing wind and solar power.

September 4, 2009

NREL Energy Execs Make an Impact Nationally

NREL is no stranger to the spotlight when it comes to the discussion of renewable energy solutions for the country. And now alumni from NREL's Executive Energy Leadership program (Energy Execs) are finding their green energy projects in the national spotlight as they put what they learned into practice.

August 2009

August 21, 2009

Wind Technology Center Installing a Dynamic Duo

Generating 20 percent of the nation's electricity from clean wind resources will require more and bigger wind turbines. NREL is installing two large wind turbines at the National Wind Technology Center to examine some of the industry's largest machines and address issues to expand wind energy on a commercial scale.

August 14, 2009

NREL Center Turns Materials Design Upside Down

The new NREL-led Center for Inverse Design will combine quantum theory, computation and combinatorial synthesis to turn materials design on its head. The center's success could accelerate the pace of materials discovery and trigger leaps in performance and efficiency in everything from sensors to lasers to solar panels.

August 7, 2009

NREL Summer Labs Season Science Students

Rather than seeing summer as a welcome break from scholarship, some dedicated students embrace the season as a time of new discoveries and learning. Eighty students from across the country recently spent 10 weeks at NREL tackling real-world problems in an internship program that benefits the lab, the nation and the students.

August 3, 2009

Award-Winning Reflector to Cut Solar Cost

In a breakthrough development that recently netted a coveted R&D Magazine top 100 award, a small solar company has teamed with scientists at NREL to develop massive curved sheets of metal that have the potential to be 30 percent less expensive than today's best collectors of concentrated solar power.

July 2009

July 24, 2009

On the Road with Alternative Fuels

Drivers of alternate fuel vehicles now can take a popular tool on the road. The Mobile Alternative Fueling Station Locator helps on-the-go drivers find the five closest biodiesel, electricity, E85 (ethanol), hydrogen, natural gas, and propane fueling sites using any mobile device with Internet access.

July 17, 2009

Recycled Natural Gas Pipes Shore Up Green Building

NREL's efforts to create one the of the world's most energy efficient buildings is putting a twist on an old building standard. The vertical supporting columns which will carry the weight of floors and walls in the new Research Support Facilities is made from recycled natural gas pipe.

July 10, 2009

Unique Research Tool Aims to Reduce PV Cost

Thin film photovoltaics made with semiconducting inks promise to revolutionize the solar energy industry with flexible modules that can be integrated into roofs, windows and walls of any structure. NREL has a unique new processing platform that enables scientists and industry to collaborate on efficient ways to commercialize the process.

July 2, 2009

Biofuels Studies to Benefit from Better Lab Test

In a step that is likely to make a loud noise in alternative energy, a pair of scientists at NREL has worked out a simpler, faster and far less costly way to measure manganese, the metal that helps green plants split water. The breakthrough could support the development of photosynthetic systems for producing biofuels.

June 2009

June 26, 2009

Lawmakers Visit NREL for Clean Energy Solutions

Want a tough job? Try being a state legislator during a recession. Now add an energy crisis and climate change to the mix. Two dozen lawmakers from Washington state to Maryland visited NREL to learn about clean energy technologies and incentives as ways to retool their economies and protect the environment.

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