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Craig Turchi Receives NREL Staff Award

May 17, 2016

Things got a little "steamy" during Matt Ringer's introduction of Craig Turchi. But Matt, the Staff Awards chairman who is known to be a jokester at times, kept things PG-rated. His references were to the various forms of steam all of us encounter: steam from our morning coffee; steam shooting from ears when things don't go well with a client or experiment; or steam, as it is discussed at NREL, as a medium for carrying energy-that's the kind Craig specializes in.

The senior engineer, who originally joined NREL in 1990 for solar research, and then returned in 2008 after a decade as a principal investigator with a tech company, now works with concentrating solar power (CSP)-which can use steam. Peers describe his creativity, effective leadership, and integrity. A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) leader noted that Craig was reliable in analyzing everything about CSP systems. Additionally, Craig has pioneered a technology which would replace steam in CSP-and led to a crosscutting DOE program.

As a CSP expert, he has helped combine geothermal and other technologies with CSP, improving performance of geothermal plants. As one collaborator said, Craig has an impressive ability to steer complex projects, which motivates team members to solve complicated problems.

Craig took the stage to the strains of the Queen-David Bowie collaboration "Under Pressure." Looking at the audience, he said, "I spend a lot of my time thinking about CSP and what works and what doesn't work...somehow I pulled that off. The reason I pulled that off was because of the people I work with...people who have developed the tools for analyzing CSP systems."

Commenting on the state of CSP, he noted that the photovoltaic energy people "out there keep making it harder and harder for us-but we're not dead yet." He also mentioned that he and others on his team had recently visited the largest CSP tower in the world in Northern Nevada, a power tower that has 10 hours of dispatchable storage. "I think it's going to be the future of CSP technology," he said, "so CSP still has a few tricks up its sleeve." And to borrow Matt's analogy-CSP still has some steam left because of researchers such as Craig.

—Connie Komomua