NREL’s Campus Expands as Part of the Vision for Clean Energy Impact

By National Renewable Energy Laboratory Director Martin Keller

May is traditionally thought of as the month for honoring growth. New beginnings seem to be in the air everywhere.

So, it was fitting that on May 22, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) hosted an NREL Campus Expansion celebration, creating new opportunities for NREL’s researchers and staff.

On hand at our 178-acre South Table Mountain Campus in Golden, Colorado, were Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Sen. John Hickenlooper, as well as members of DOE leadership and other stakeholders.

This gathering marked a pivotal moment in NREL’s future and ability to continue to move the energy transition forward. We held a ribbon-cutting for the Research and Innovation Laboratory (RAIL), showcased the South Table Mountain Energy Park (STEP), and engaged in a project launch of Colorado’s Global Energy Park (Glo Park).

Each of these elements is key to attaining our net-zero energy goals. They include:

· RAIL, which will house 15,000 square feet of multipurpose lab space, is the first laboratory building to open at NREL’s Golden, Colorado, campus since the fall of 2013.

· As the governor announced last January, the state is preparing for the 9-acre Glo Park located just outside NREL’s south gate. Development of the site will start later this year with a projected opening date in early 2026. As its name implies, this state-of-the-art facility will be a global destination. I am very much looking forward to the new partnerships it will create, as well as the collaborations that will become deeper.

· Also, as part of a federal, state, and county land swap, DOE picked up 6 acres of NREL-managed open campus land for STEP. This will provide a new community front door on the site of the former Camp George West.

The combination spotlights the ever-expanding opportunities for the laboratory and our people to contribute to global energy goals, especially as a research center, collaborator, and convenor across the energy landscape.

Our growth is supported in part by $150 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This backing is assisting us in meeting our increasing DOE R&D portfolio and strategic partnerships activities.

This spring extravaganza also served up a smorgasbord sampling of NREL facilities and the people in them who are advancing our mission. For example, there was a trip to the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). At ESIF, Secretary Granholm, Gov. Polis, and I, among others, signed the Kestrel high-performance computing system — which will greatly expand NREL’s supercomputing capacity.

And in keeping with the springtime theme, we met with the latest cohort of interns who have arrived on campus as part of NREL’s Student Training in Applied Research Undergraduate Internship program. These budding scientists and engineers are surely a sign that spring has sprung.

Fortunately, our sometimes fickle Colorado May weather cooperated, and we were able to appreciate all these stellar additions. We believe this journey of growth will continue as NREL’s people seek innovative solutions with the renewed energy of springtime.

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