NREL Shrinks Laboratory's Environmental Footprint

NREL Shrinks Laboratory's Environmental Footprint

By installing on-site solar and wind power systems and purchasing renewable energy certificates, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has pledged to offset not only the total energy use of its buildings, but also the energy used by NREL vehicles, employee commuting, air travel, and other "life cycle" energy consumption as well.

The Laboratory exceeded its five-year goal as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Climate Leaders Partnership, having cut overall greenhouse gas emissions more than 10 percent since 2000.

"We at NREL are proud to be leaders in energy efficiency and renewable energy," NREL Director Dan Arvizu said, "by both providing the research that helps the nation reduce its dependence on foreign energy sources, and by using those very technologies to make our own facilities the very best they can be."

Several of NREL's laboratory buildings are among the most energy efficient of all comparable federal facilities, while on-site electricity production from wind turbines and solar electric systems contributes 138,000 kilowatt hours annually to the Laboratory's power needs.

At NREL's National Wind Technology Center south of Boulder, when wind turbines used for research and development are operating, the electricity they generate is used to meet on-site power needs. Thermal energy sources include solar hot water systems and ventilation air preheat systems. Passive solar heating and day-lighting are used extensively.

All new construction at NREL is committed to exceed the current Federal Model Energy Code by at least 30 percent.

The Laboratory's new Science and Technology Facility, a 71,000-square-foot laboratory structure scheduled for completion this summer, is projected to use 38 percent less energy than the "base building" standard and was designed in accordance with criteria for Gold-level LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

NREL's comprehensive energy management program also includes retrofitting with new energy-efficient equipment and devices, peak demand management, an energy monitoring and metering project, as well as regular staff education on energy-reduction practices.

NREL's achievements in energy efficiency and renewable energy use are especially noteworthy for an institution of its size and scope. NREL encompasses 618 acres on several sites, with 665,000 square feet of laboratory and office space, housing more than 1,100 researchers and support staff.

At the same time, NREL has played an important role in reducing energy consumption and increasing the use of renewable energy across the entire federal government, largely through the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). NREL’s technical leadership in support of FEMP efforts to advance the use of renewables within the Federal sector has helped the government exceed its goal of obtaining 2.5 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by September 30, 2005.

The Laboratory’s broader research mission also promotes the development of innovative, energy-efficient building processes and technologies by the residential and commercial building industries nationwide, and internationally.

NREL was the first federal pilot partner in the EPA’s Climate Leaders Partnership, and one of only seven original members to establish initial target reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The National Laboratory also was a founding member of EPA’s Green Power Partnership and its Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership. The EPA noted that NREL’s research contributions to the latter effort "will allow the automotive community to prevent over 35 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually and save the average consumer hundreds of dollars over the life of their vehicle."

The EPA additionally praised NREL as "a world leader" credited with "numerous important advances in photovoltaics, wind energy, building technology, advanced vehicle and automotive systems, solar thermal electric, hydrogen, superconductivity, geothermal power and distributed energy."

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 DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle.