Leader in Geospatial Data Science Named Most Promising Scientist

From Geospatial Modeler to Role Model, Anthony Lopez Shines in the STEM Community

Feb. 1, 2023 | By Daniella Frank and Madeline Geocaris | Contact media relations

Photo of a person standing and smiling in front of a screen that shows modeled maps.
Anthony Lopez is a leader at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and beyond. Photo by Deb Lastowka, NREL

With over a decade of achievements in geospatial data science, Anthony Lopez, senior researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has shown he is not stopping any time soon. Lopez was named the Most Promising Scientist by Great Minds in STEM (GMiS), a prestigious award that honors the highest-achieving scientists and engineers from the Hispanic community across the United States.

Lopez joins a class of award winners who embody the GMiS mission of inspiring younger Hispanic generations to pursue careers in STEM and motivating professionals to meaningfully engage with the Hispanic community.

"I am humbled and honored by this award," Lopez said. "It would not have been possible without the support of my family and a fantastic NREL community."

Committed to Community, Collaborative Problem-Solving

While growing up in Greeley, Colorado, Lopez participated in the Greeley Dream Team, a nonprofit organization that helps local minority youth succeed in school through mentorship. The program jump-started Lopez's journey to becoming a geospatial data scientist. Having recognized the impact that mentorship made on his life, Lopez now gives back to the program by connecting Greeley students with NREL researchers to discuss careers in clean energy.

"The passion Anthony has for mentorship, constructive collaboration, and creative problem-solving has been a driving force along his path to success," said Galen Maclaurin, group manager of the Geospatial Data Science Group in the Strategic Energy Analysis Center (SEAC). "Along the way, he has positively impacted his mentees and colleagues and inspired the next generation of thought leaders."

At the Edge of Innovative Modeling

Along with being a dedicated mentor, Lopez is an exemplary representative of the Hispanic STEM community through his work in the field of geospatial data science. During his decade-plus tenure at NREL, Lopez has served as a thought leader in modeling wind and solar energy supply with land use constraints—an important consideration that is emerging in the clean energy transition.

Lopez and his team continue to refine their modeling to represent more of the built and natural environments. No other organization models renewable energy resource potential with the same fidelity. The NREL simulations show that local siting constraints could impact the overall potential of wind and solar, and further, alter the pace and scale of decarbonization.

"The solution isn't about unlocking more land," Lopez said in NREL's Long Story Short video series. "It's about coming up with more innovative designs that make these technologies more feasible to deploy and better integrated into the fabric of local communities and landscapes."

In addition to his impactful research on siting constraints, Lopez has cofounded two pivotal research programs at NREL. He served as the architect for the National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB), a comprehensive collection of hourly and half-hourly meteorological data and solar radiation measurements. The annually updated database is referenced by thousands of researchers every year.

Lopez also spearheaded the Renewable Energy Potential model, an open-source model used by dozens of research institutes and agencies that codifies renewable energy technical potential and produces geospatial supply curves.

"Anthony plays a critical role to the continued growth, diversification, and impact of our work in this technical domain," said Dan Bilello, director of SEAC. "As NREL continues to push forward with leading the research edge in geospatial data science, Anthony consistently advances innovative techniques that inform and expand the impact of renewable energy technologies across the United States and around the globe."

Insights from work by Most Promising Scientist Anthony Lopez will continue to inform pathways to decarbonize the energy system and mitigate climate change—inspiring a new generation of STEM leaders along the way.

Read more about Anthony Lopez and NREL's Geospatial Data Science research.