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News Release: NREL, CCHRC Combine Forces to Increase Impact, Research in Arctic Region

Collaboration Adds 20+ Years of Experience to NREL’s Portfolio, Opens Extreme Climate Opportunities

June 8, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has taken a big step toward growing its mission space and impact through an expanded collaboration with Alaska’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC).

Based in Fairbanks, Alaska, where temperatures swing throughout the year from minus 50 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, CCHRC has 20 years of experience designing energy efficient, healthy, culturally appropriate homes in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. Through the collaboration, the CCHRC staff will become NREL employees, creating new opportunities to access extreme climates and leverage CCHRC’s extensive research. NREL and CCHRC share complementary research capabilities, including whole-building energy use, building energy system integration, health and indoor air quality, as well as energy technology design and deployment in extreme and rural environments.

NREL expects demand for this type of research to grow in the coming years, and this collaboration will keep NREL’s research agenda on the forefront of energy science and expand DOE’s return on investment.

NREL’s 10-year strategy includes a focus on Integrated Energy Pathways, an expanding research area that guides solutions to enable the efficient and reliable operation of our future energy system. The Arctic environment, with its high cost of energy in remote communities and challenging climates, provides a strategic platform for NREL’s research into renewable power, sustainable transportation, energy efficiency, and energy systems integration.

“Alliances such as this allow NREL to accomplish more by combining our strengths than what would have been achieved separately and will help to further our work with existing partners as well as increase impact for the Department of Energy,” said NREL Director Dr. Martin Keller.

Like NREL, CCHRC operates as a “living laboratory,” with a campus that includes their LEED Platinum-certified Research and Testing Facility. CCHRC brings world-class Arctic experts and the success of more than 35 collaborations across government, academia, and industry that span the circumpolar Arctic. CCHRC’s mission of “promoting and advancing the development of healthy, durable, and sustainable shelter for Alaskans and other Circumpolar people” is complementary to NREL’s research priorities.

Beyond obvious opportunities in the building-design space, many other NREL research programs stand to benefit from this new collaboration. NREL’s expertise in analysis and decision science can help address challenges associated with remote supply chains and improve the life-cycle performance and affordability of buildings.

Efforts toward DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems initiative also amplify the collaboration.

“The expanded collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center will allow us to test the resiliency and reliability of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies in extreme weather conditions,” said Daniel R. Simmons, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “These enhanced capabilities will allow us to bring scalable, sustainable, and affordable energy solutions to communities in Alaska and the circumpolar region and across the United States.”

While the collaboration adds decades of extreme-climate experience and established circumpolar relationships to NREL’s portfolio, it is not NREL’s first foray into Alaska. NREL is already engaged with several activities and partners extensively across the state. Researchers from NREL have been providing technical assistance to Alaska Native villages and corporations through DOE’s Office of Indian Energy. NREL’s other efforts in the region include work on remote microgrid design and high-renewable contribution grids through the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium and Alaska Microgrid Program, as well as support of the Alaska Energy Authority, Solarize Alaska, and Launch Alaska’s Energy-Water-Food-Transportation Innovation incubator.

This collaboration provides a boost to these and other regional initiatives in which NREL participates by placing boots on the ground in the region. Alaska-based staff can strengthen relationships in the region, expand networks, and more quickly identify and respond to emerging research needs.

Visit the CCHRC website to learn more about their innovative buildings design and research.

Learn more about NREL’s buildings research program.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.