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NREL Technologies Win National Awards

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Golden, Colo., August 10, 1998 — Technologies developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have been selected to receive two 1998 R&D 100 awards by R&D Magazine. The annual awards recognize the year's 100 most significant technological innovations.

"Cutting-edge research by NREL and its industry partners is helping innovative renewable energy technologies move into the future - and into American households," said NREL Director Richard Truly. "NREL has won 23 R&D 100 awards since 1982, which highlights the positive contribution the lab has made to the development of clean energy technologies."

The magazine identified the UNI-SOLAR Triple-Junction Amorphous-Silicon Solar-Electric Module as one of the most important advances of 1998. With NREL's support, United Solar Systems Corp. of Troy, Mich., developed the module, which uses three active solar cell layers. Each layer is tuned to differing wavelengths of light to more efficiently convert the sun's light into electricity. New materials were developed to capture the differing wavelengths and innovative device designs were adopted to yield high efficiency (12 percent for a cell, 10.2 percent for a prototype module, 7.6 percent for a commercial module) from amorphous silicon, which is less expensive to produce than crystalline silicon used in most commercial solar cells. The resulting product is lighter and more flexible, making it suitable for innovative uses such as roofing shingles.

Funding and support were provided by DOE through NREL's National Center for Photovoltaics and the Thin Film PV Partnership to help reduce the cost of solar-electric technologies.

NREL also earned 1998 R&D 100 honors for its part in the development of the High-Throughput Biomass Gasifier, which converts renewable biomass resources such as wood waste or plant material into gas for electric power generation. The new gasification technology can produce electricity for about half the cost of other biomass power systems.

Invented by Battelle of Columbus, Ohio, and commercialized by the Future Energy Resources Corp. of Atlanta, Ga., with assistance from NREL and Vermont's Burlington Electric Department, the gasifier heats biomass indirectly with hot sand and steam. It produces a medium heating value gas with about half the energy content of natural gas.

A commercial-scale gasifier now in operation at the McNeil Generating Station in Burlington, Vt., daily converts 200 dry tons of waste wood to gas. The process also has been successfully demonstrated with other biomass materials such as switch grass, sawdust and prepared municipal solid waste.

Development was funded by DOE's Office of Utility Technology's Biomass Power Program. The project supports DOE's mission to develop new commercially feasible technologies that use renewable energy to generate electricity and reduce pollution without creating greenhouse gasses.

Under Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said, "Once again, the scientists and engineers at DOE laboratories are being recognized by garnering a third of this year's prestigious R&D 100 awards. This says more clearly than any words can express how DOE labs serve as an important engine of American innovation."

A panel of experts from a variety of fields chose the R&D 100 winners from entries submitted by private industry, government laboratories and academic research centers. The awards will be presented Sept. 24 at a ceremony in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

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