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 2020

Dec. 22, 2020

Top 20 NREL Stories of 2020

NREL researchers and staff reached countless goals and achieved numerous successes in science, partnerships, and technology commercialization in 2020, from breaking world records to launching new initiatives. Here are just a few of the highlights.

Dec. 14, 2020

At 30 Years Young, the Future Is Bright for NREL's High-Flux Solar Furnace

With the breakneck speed of innovation at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the laboratory's High-Flux Solar Furnace (HFSF) is all the more remarkable for continuously facilitating envelope-pushing research since 1989.

Dec. 1, 2020

Wells Fargo Invests $20M To Extend Highly Successful IN2 Incubator Program Through 2024

Now in its seventh year, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) is now a $50 million program, designed from the start to consider a diverse cross section of start-ups, collect them into cohorts, connect them with technological expertise, and accelerate their clean technologies to the marketplace.

October 2020

Oct. 29, 2020

New Directions Sharpen NREL's Cybersecurity Research, Protecting Energy Systems Beyond the Grid Edge

When it comes to cybersecurity for the electric grid, researchers at NREL are looking ahead.

Oct. 12, 2020

Integrated Hydrogen Sensor/Separation Module Boosts Long-Term Efficiency and Revenue in Solar Power Plants

Concentrating solar power (CSP) plants generate clean energy to power our communities. Yet, one consistent challenge of CSP plants is hydrogen buildup, which can be costly to mitigate and reduces plant efficiency. NREL researcher Greg Glatzmaier has spent much of his career finding a solution.

Oct. 1, 2020

Apex Flex: An All-Perovskite Tandem Technology Suitable for Solar-Powered Vehicles

NREL's new perovskite material, marketed as Apex Flex, broke through two design barriers to arrive at a solar cell that is flexible and stable enough for car-top application at a cost 200 times less than flexible PV technologies of similar specific power.

September 2020

Sept. 24, 2020

Scientists Offer Companies a Novel Chemistry for Greener Polyurethane

Through a novel chemistry using nontoxic resources like linseed oil, waste grease, or even algae, chemist Phil Pienkos and colleague Tao Dong, an expert in chemical engineering, have developed a groundbreaking method for producing renewable polyurethane without toxic precursors.

Sept. 15, 2020

Renewables Rescue Stability as the Grid Loses Spin

Across the world, renewable power is displacing traditional generation, but can renewables also replace the critical stability functions that go with it? NREL studies are confirming in the field and on live power systems that solar, wind, and hybrid power plants can provide their own source of grid stability—potentially unlike anything currently on the grid.

Sept. 8, 2020

From Lab to Tundra: Building a More Efficient Future with Rural Alaska

In a small Athabascan village on the Yukon River, a new house is going up. Tribal leaders in Huslia, Alaska, hope homes like this will attract health care and law enforcement workers to the remote Arctic community. Staying warm is the center of life at this latitude and the driving purpose of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

August 2020

Aug. 18, 2020

NREL, ExxonMobil Teams Imagine, Research New Solutions for Tomorrow's Energy Challenges

A year into their unique collaboration, NREL and ExxonMobil are navigating a multi-pronged effort toward a future where clean-burning biofuels replace some petroleum-based fuels.

Aug. 3, 2020

Grid Coordination Opens Road for Electric Vehicle Flexibility

As electric vehicle sales continue to rev up in the United States, the power grid is in parallel contending with the greatest transformation in its 100-year history: the large-scale integration of renewable energy and power electronic devices. The changes will test the limits of grid integration, but NREL sees opportunity at the intersection of energy systems and transportation.

June 2020

June 16, 2020

From Space Travel to Fisheries: Wave Energy Modeling Tool Helps Design Tomorrow's Tech

NASA is using WEC-Sim (Wave Energy Converter SIMulator), an open-source code developed by NREL and Sandia National Laboratories, to ensure NASA’s Orion Crew Model uprights and remains upright upon landing in the ocean.

May 2020

May 14, 2020

Blockchain: Not Just for Bitcoin

A common vision for the future of the nation's energy grid involves homeowners selling unused power generated from rooftop solar panels to others in their communities, and working together to help ensure the reliability, resiliency, and security of the power grid everyone uses. But how can the grid manage such complex energy transactions at scale? Several emerging solutions rely on blockchain technology.

May 1, 2020

NREL Research into Fueling Big Rigs Could Help More Hydrogen Vehicles Hit the Road

Hydrogen-fueled cars are increasingly popular in California, but moving beyond the state's borders may require 18-wheelers crisscrossing America's highways leading the way. Research at NREL suggests a shift in long-haul trucking toward hydrogen that could drive a coast-to-coast network of fueling stations.

April 2020

April 22, 2020

50th Anniversary of Earth Day Puts NREL Research in Focus

Five decades ago, an idea sprouted into an event that grew into a movement, which today, on its 50th anniversary, we recognize as Earth Day—a global day of awareness and a celebration of principle, responsibility, and sustainability. NREL has always enjoyed strong ties to Earth Day. The laboratory's second director, Denis Hayes, played a key role in its creation, coordinating the first Earth Day in 1970.

April 16, 2020

Buildings Research Sets Foundation for Future Design

"Earth Day is about looking at how we use energy and how we can increase sustainability by reducing our negative impact on Earth," said NREL's Roderick Jackson. "Buildings are the largest consumers of energy. If a building can be designed in a way that allows us to accelerate that clean energy future… that's what we're doing here."

April 3, 2020

Scientist Nancy Haegel Uses the Elegance of Physics To Guide Materials Research

NREL Materials Science Center Director Nancy Haegel's fingerprints were on semiconductor light detectors aboard NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Her research in semiconductors continues to inspire others and inform her activities at NREL.

March 2020

March 25, 2020

JISEA Celebrates a Decade of Energy System Transformation Through Analysis

Ten years since its founding, the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis continues to provide critical insights linking energy, society, and prosperity around the world.

March 2, 2020

Bifacial Solar Advances with the Times—and the Sun

Traditional solar modules convert light to electricity using photovoltaic cells on the top side of the panels. Now, NREL researchers are shining a light on what lies beneath. Data from June through November 2019 revealed up to a 9% gain in energy production using bifacial panels compared with their one-sided cousins.

February 2020

Feb. 17, 2020

Fuels Researcher Gina Fioroni Runs Past Lab—and Trail—Obstacles

NREL Senior Scientist Gina Fioroni displays the same tenacity in her research on fuel as in her pursuit of ultrarunning events.

January 2020

Jan. 28, 2020

How NREL Is Fanning the Sparks of Innovation

During fiscal year 2019, NREL filed a record 124 patent applications and counted a record 233 disclosures — a category that includes 161 records of invention and 72 software records. NREL-developed software is protectable by copyright, while records of invention can be protected with patent applications.

Jan. 2, 2020

Declining Renewable Costs Drive Focus on Energy Storage

An oft-repeated refrain—the sun doesn't always shine, is sometimes seen as an impediment to renewable energy. But it's also an impetus toward discovering the best ways to store that energy until it's needed.


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