NREL Forms New Research Center, Names Jennifer Kurtz as Leader

Oct. 26, 2020 | Contact media relations

A researcher speaks in front of a monitor showing a research diagram.
Jennifer Kurtz gives an overview of the Hydrogen Infrastructure Testing and Research Facility. Kurtz was recently named director of the newly formed Energy Conversion and Storage Systems Center. Photo by Amy Glickson, NREL

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) named Jennifer Kurtz director of the newly formed Energy Conversion and Storage Systems Center.

The new center, known as ECaSS, combines five groups within NREL’s Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences (MTES) directorate. The new cross-cutting center is dedicated to systems engineering for energy conversion and storage technologies such as batteries, hydrogen, geothermal, thermal, and water power.

“The addition of this unique center allows us to realign some of our research capabilities to support the Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) research platform and further our collaboration across NREL, the Department of Energy (DOE), industry, and academia,” said Johney Green, associate laboratory director for MTES.

“We have an opportunity to research individual energy conversion and storage technologies and how those technologies integrate with the larger energy system of generation, storage, and demand,” Kurtz said. “I’m looking forward to the cross-laboratory collaborations and alignment with research initiatives like ARIES. The traditional boundaries of generation and demand are changing, and our research will investigate a diverse set of technologies and system configurations for flexible and sustainable integrated energy systems.”

Kurtz will manage a team of approximately 100 researchers.

“Jen’s expertise in hydrogen and fuel cell research, coupled with her leadership experience, will launch a center that is uniquely focused on systems engineering for energy conversion and storage technologies,” Green said. “Her extensive research background and successful industry, academia, and DOE partnership development will help NREL lead the transformation of the nation’s energy systems.”

Kurtz joined NREL in 2007 as a senior research engineer before becoming the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Systems Engineering group manager a few years later. She led hydrogen and fuel cell research activities in areas such as technology validation, grid integration, and renewable hydrogen production for nearly eight years. During her tenure, Kurtz researched increasing system efficiency, lowering cost, improving system reliability, and industry/agency partnerships.

Kurtz moved to the MTES directorate as chief research engineer in 2019 and led the development of a research strategy effort for integrated energy pathways, with a focus on energy storage and ARIES.

Kurtz has been cited in 360 publications, holds two patents, and has earned multiple accolades. In 2019, she received an NREL Chairman’s Award for her role in leading the development of a world-class hydrogen research platform and for bringing partners and funding to the laboratory.

Before she joined NREL, Kurtz worked on fuel cell system design and components at UTC Power. 

Kurtz received her Ph.D. in systems engineering from Colorado State University, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech, and her bachelor’s degree in physics from Wartburg College.

Learn more about energy storage research at NREL.

Tags: Geothermal,Water,Hydrogen,Staff Profile,Energy Storage