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Overview:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the Department of Energy’s primary research and development center for collaborations with partners for the research, development and transfer of renewable energy technologies and their practical deployment and commercialization. The NREL’s mission is to analyze and understand alternative energy technologies and U.S. electrical grid system support to reduce emissions and dependence on conventional fuels. It collaborates in its work with other government agencies, private industry, and academia.

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History:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was launched in 1974 and began operating on July 5, 1977, as the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI). Its purpose was to research the means of utilizing the power of the sun.

 

The establishment of the SERI in Colorado was a key element in the overall national energy strategy of President Jimmy Carter, which included freeing the United States of its addiction to imported oil. In his speech dedicating the lab’s launch in Colorado, Carter noted that the nation’s spending on foreign oil had jumped from $2.7 billion in 1970 to more than $45 billion in 1977. “America’s hope for energy to sustain economic growth beyond the year 2000 rests in large measure on the development of renewable and essentially inexhaustible sources of energy,” he said. “No matter how good a job of conservation we do, the world's supply of oil and gas will dwindle, become more expensive, and finally run out.”

 

The SERI caught the eye of the public, and soon both the agency’s budget and research parameters expanded beyond its original focus on solar energy. As of 1981, 300 acres of land were donated to the DOE for the agency, courtesy of the state of Colorado. Within three years, the SERI’s first permanent structure, the Field Test Laboratory Building—holding 41 separate labs—was constructed. However, under the Ronald Reagan administration of the 1980s, the SERI’s budget was slashed by about 90%, resulting in a severe cutback in research projects and staffing.

 

During subsequent years, a heightened interest in the nation’s energy challenges gave the institute a renewed sense of purpose. In 1991, the SERI’s name was changed to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, at which point it was designated as a national lab and placed in the Department of Energy (DOE). With that change came a modification of its mission, which would now be the creation of clean and renewal energy technologies. In spite of that shot in the arm, funding for its research remained inconsistent.

 

In 2006, government funding of the NREL hit such a low that 32 employees had to be laid off. Five years later, in anticipation of congressional budget cuts, the lab was driven to reduce its work force by up to 150 people through the establishment of a voluntary buyout program.

 

Under the Obama administration, investment in the NREL has increased. Between 2009 and 2012, the DOE has spent more than $400 million on bolstering the agency’s infrastructure; and since 2011, the NREL’s work force has multiplied from 500 to more than 1,700. Additionally, the DOE has continued to acquire land for the NREL’s main site on South Table Mountain in Colorado, which currently stands at 328.67 acres. It also has a 305-acre wind technology facility in Boulder.

 

The NREL’s accomplishments over the years have included the development of “buried anode” technology (reverse battery creation for greater efficiency at lower cost), high-speed biomass analysis and biomass-to-ethanol conversion, wind-to-hydrogen generation, solar cell powering of spacecraft, alternate fuel production through a plant-decay/sugar regeneration process, glassless solar mirrors, and smart window technology.

 

One of the projects to which the NREL is contributing in 2013 is the development of microbes that will consume the methane in natural gas, thereby converting it into liquid diesel fuel. If the effort succeeds, it has the potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering dependence on foreign oil. A study that the NREL conducted the previous year determined that “renewable energy sources, accessed with commercially available technologies, could adequately supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.”

 

As of 2012, the NREL had active contracts with 15 other government agencies, 65 educational organizations, 28 non-profit outfits, and 448 companies with which it maintains partnerships.

 

 

 

 

 

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What it Does:

The NREL is the principle research facility for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (OEERE), Office of Science and the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. The NREL also provides technical assistance, energy planning and economic development for many organizations and industries in the U.S.

 

The laboratory is managed for the DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, a partnership between Battelle Memorial Institute and MRIGlobal (Midwest Research Institute). The Alliance’s five-year contract is worth $1.1 billion. Roughly 80% of the NREL’s funding comes from the DOE’s OEERE, with the balance coming from other DOE and outside sources.

 

The NREL’s goal is “a clean energy future,” and its approach to energy involves the relationship among four key systems: fuel production, transportation, built environment, and electricity generation and delivery.

 

Research and Development at the NREL involves 13 areas of focus for innovation in efficient and renewable energies with the goal of putting these technologies into the marketplace for the use by households and businesses:

 

Advanced Vehicles & Fuels Research aims at making more fuel-efficient technologies by testing and analyzing current technologies in order to reduce oil dependency and reduce emissions. This research also looks at removing technical barriers to make hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles more available. The NREL has worked closely with major car manufacturers such as General Motors and Ford to create economically competitive vehicles.

           

      •     Uses in Public Transportation

Hybrid Buses Costs and Benefits (EESI) (PDF)

Case Study: Ebus Hybrid Electric Buses and Trolleys (by R. Barnitt, NREL) (PDF)

NYC Black Town Cars To Go Green (Hybrid Cars)

 

  • Alternative Energy Vehicles

Validation of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle and Infrastructure Technology (PDF)

Test Drive: Honda's FCX fuel-cell car ready for its close-up (by James R. Healey, USA Today)

Reinventing the Automobile with Fuel Cell Technology (General Motors)

An Electric Car Unlike Any Other: More Torque than a Dodge Viper and Skinny as a Motorcycle (by Jesse A. Zirwes and Matthew de Paula, Forbes Autos)

 

Biomass Research studies biological material such as trees and agricultural crops to produce fuels to create electric power, heat or fuel. Biomass conversion technologies are developed in the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner.

 

  • Biomass Developments

Planet Power

Roadmap for Bioenergy and Biobased Products in the United States (pdf)

Renewable Energy Policy Project: Biomass Cooking Stoves

 

Buildings Research looks at reducing the large amount of energy used by structures. This research helps develop technologies to manage building energy use and effectively implement renewable energy capabilities.

 

  • Innovative, sustainable architecture

Sanyo: Solar Ark

 

 

Department of Defense (DoD) Energy Programs are supported by the NREL with the goal of advancing the implementation of DoD’s clean energy initiatives, reducing costs, minimizing risks in the field, and attaining energy security.

 

Electricity Integration Research focuses on ways for renewable energy technologies to be integrated into electrical grid planning and operations. This NREL division focuses on both distributed and transmission grid integration. The former deals with solar photovoltaic implementation, distributed wind, and vehicle-to-grid technologies; the latter with wind and large-scale solar power systems.

 

International Activities covers the NREL’s global initiatives—undertaken in collaboration with foreign governments and technical institutions—that address three strategic objectives: economic development, energy security, and environmental protection.

 

Solar Research at the NREL delves into two major branches of solar energy: photovoltaics (also known as solar electric systems), and solar thermal systems:

            Concentrating Solar Power Research looks at solar power plant and solar thermal          technologies to create large scale and advanced solar energy cost effective in the market.

Photovoltaic Research looks at limiting the nation’s use of fossil fuels by preparing alternative options and increase photovoltaic models and systems that are cost effective and efficient.

 

  • Solar Power to Improve Environment

Blending Wind and Solar Into the Diesel Generator Market (by Virinder Singh, REPP Research) (pdf)

Rural Electrification with Solar Energy as a Climate Protection Strategy (by Steven Kaufman, REPP)

Fuel from the Sky: Solar Power's Potential for Western Energy Supply (by Arnold Leitner, NREL) (pdf)

America's Solar Energy Potential (American Energy Independence)

 

  • Solar Energy Internationally

Cloudy Germany a Powerhouse in Solar Energy (by Craig Whitlock, Washington Post)

Solar energy in the European Union (Wikipedia)

Solar Energy Booming in China (by Zijun Li, Worldwatch Institute)

 

Technology Deployment involves the NREL’s support of various federal agencies, including the DOE, DoD, and others by providing technical and project assistance, training, and resources to help meet and exceed energy and environmental targets.

 

Energy Analysis looks at market, private and government relations, along with renewable energy developments, to create applicable policy recommendations. Research in this area takes a cost-benefit analysis of current and new technologies to understand environmental, economical, and security impacts.

 

Geothermal Technologies aims at converting geothermal energy into heat and electricity. This area is also concerned with drilling technologies and exploration and management of power plants.

  • Policy Options

Geothermal: Policy (Renewable Energy Policy Project)

The Future of Geothermal Energy: Impact of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) on the United States in the 21st Century (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) (pdf)

Geothermal: Environmental Impacts (Renewable Energy Policy Project)

 

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Research is focused on hydrogen production, storage, validity, and standardization. The goal is to help industry transport and use hydrogen and fuel cells in the safest and most cost effective way in order to compete with more traditional methods such as coal and oil.

Potential for Hydrogen Production from Key Renewable Resources in the U.S. (pdf)

 

Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program provides technical assistance, grants, and information resources to states, local governments, community agencies, utilities, Indian tribes, and overseas U.S. territories for their energy programs.

 

Wind Research aims at using this natural power to fuel many systems and make wind energy technologies more competitive against conventional energy methods. Focus is now on making low-wind turbine technology more cost-effective. The research and development is conducted in the National Wind Technology Center, built in 1993.

 

  • America’s Wind Power Potential

Wind Energy’s Growing Power Boosts Economy, Environment, & Energy Security (Wind Outlook) (pdf)

AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Third Quarter 2012 Market Report (American Wind Energy Association) (pdf)

 

  • Offshore Wind Energy

Regulating Offshore Wind Power and Aquaculture: Messages from Land and Sea (by Jeremy Firestone, Willett Kempton, Andrew Krueger and Christen E. Loper, University of Delaware) (pdf)

The Offshore Wind Power Debate: Views from Cape Cod (by Willett Kempton, Jeremy Firestone, Jonathan Lilley, Tracy Rouleau, Phillip Whitaker, University of Delaware) (pdf)

United States - Wind Resource Map (pdf)

 

  • European Union - Leader in Wind Energy

Global Wind Energy Council

Wind Power in Germany (Wikipedia)

 

 

Other Areas of Study at the NREL:

 

Energy Sciences conducts foundational scientific research that develops new concepts and knowledge in the chemical, biological, materials, and computer sciences.

 

Computational Science uses computer systems and applied mathematics to model and test renewable energy technologies. This research area also aids in understanding new energy alternatives in data and performance analysis.

 

Technology Transfer involves working directly with organizations and industries to transfer and commercialize energy saving and renewable energy technologies. Through technology partnership agreements, private and public organizations fund the NREL’s technical support and research development. Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) allows the NREL to collaborate on a development project. CRADAs use shared resources in order to retain intellectual property rights of both partners.

 

Renewable Energy: Economic and Environmental Issues for the U.S.

Renewable Energy: Economic and Environmental Issues (by David Pimentel, G. Rodrigues, T. Wane, R. Abrams, K. Goldberg, H. Staecker, E. Ma, L. Brueckner, L. Trovato, C. Chow, U. Govindarajulu, and S. Boerke, Bioscience)

Renewable Energy Sources in the United States (National Atlas of the United States)

 

Environmental Impact

Fuel-Cycle Fossil Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Fuel Ethanol Produced from U.S. Midwest Corn (Center for Transportation Research) (pdf)

Renewable energy wrecks environment, scientist claims (World Science)

 

NREL Organization Chart

NREL Research Facilities

What has the National Renewable Energy Lab done for the public good? (by Sam Levin, Denver Westword News)

 

From the Web Site of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Accomplishments

Awards and Honors

Business Opportunities

Commercialization and Technology Transfer

Community Outreach

Construction

Contact Information

Developer Network

Education Programs

Employment

Energy Analysis

Energy Analysis Newsletter

Energy Systems Integration

Events

Fact Sheet (pdf)

Foreign Nationals Program

Funding History

Image Gallery

Leadership

Learn About Renewable Energy

Library

Magazine

Models and Tools

News Archives

News Releases

News Subscription

Newsroom

Organization Chart

Overview

Programs

Publications Database

Renewable Resources Maps and Data

Research Participant Program

Research Facilities

Research Support Facility

Science and Technology

Solar Maps

Technology Deployment

Technology Partnership Agreements

U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database

Visiting NREL

Wind Maps

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has spent more than $2.1 billion between FY 2003 and FY 2013 on more than 600 contractor transactions, according to USAspending.gov. The top five types of products or services it paid for during that period were R&D facilities operation ($2,087,795,874), basic environmental sciences ($2,395,706), other R&D expenses ($11,558,543), maintenance/repair/rebuilding of electrical equipment ($55,566), and public relations services ($23,371). The top five recipients of this contractor spending were:

 

1. Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC                     $2,039,120,768          

2. Battelle Memorial Institute Inc.                                   $22,395,706          

3. UT-Battelle LLC                                                         $19,928,706          

4. Lockheed Martin Corporation                                     $15,060,000          

5. Lawrence Livermore National Security LLC             $11,558,543

 

The NREL’s launch and expansion of its facilities in Colorado has benefited the state’s economy. In FY 2011, the NREL’s presence had a net benefit to Colorado of $831.3 million, according to the University of Colorado’s Leeds College of Business.

 

The NREL’s renewable energy research budget was distributed to these six areas in FY 2010:

•           Solar Energy                                       $79.7 million

•           Wind Energy                                       $38.8 million

•           Biomass and Biorefinery Systems      $38.3 million

•           Hydrogen Technology                        $16.4 million

•           Geothermal Technology                        $4.8 million

•           Water Power                                         $4.2 million

 

 

 

 

 

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Controversies:

Bird Deaths at Altamont Wind Farm

After years of complaints, conservationists in the San Francisco Bay Area got some good news in 2013 about the problem of bird mortality at the Altamont Pass wind turbine area.

 

A study conducted by the consulting firm ICF International for the Alameda County Community Development Agency said deaths of eagles and three other bird of prey species had been reduced by about 50% since 2005.

 

Progress in cutting the annual number of bird deaths was attributed to a combination of removing obsolete turbines and paying closer attention to where new turbines were located.

 

The news came after earlier reports of rising bird deaths in the Altamont Pass, located between the East Bay and the Central Valley.

 

As recently as 2011, golden eagles, a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, were reportedly dying at more than 60 a year in the wind farm.

 

Although the number of deaths may be dropping, some critics complained that the numbers were only rough estimates. Others noted that analysts miscalculated the number of bird deaths because the search area around each turbine was limited. In addition, birds found still breathing that died a few days later were not counted as fatalities.

Big Wind & Avian Mortality (Part II: Hiding the Problem) (by Jim Wiegand, Master Resource)

Wildlife Advocate Pressure Cuts Altamont Wind Bird Kills In Half (by Chris Clarke, KCET)

Wind power turbines in Altamont Pass threaten protected birds (by Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times)

Altamont Pass turbines kill fewer birds (by David Baker, San Francisco Chronicle)

 

Legislative Attempts to Roll Back Renewable Mandates

Opponents of renewable energy mandates failed in consecutive years to rollback commitments to solar and wind projects in state legislatures across the United States.

 

The requirements, known as renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which require utilities to provide certain levels of energy from renewable sources, are considered one of the largest drivers of clean energy generation in the U.S.

 

However, conservatives have attacked the mandates arguing such policies drive up the price that consumers pay for power.

 

In 2012, at least 19 bills were introduced. Five would have repealed or frozen state RPS laws and 14 would have weakened them, according to the North Carolina Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. Only three measures that sought to undermine the standards were approved—in Ohio, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

 

The first half of 2013 saw at least half a dozen states introduce legislation to repeal or weaken RPS laws. None were enacted.

State Renewable Energy Policy Developments - April Recap (Natural Resources Defense Council)

State Legislators Beat Back Efforts to Weaken Renewable Requirements (by Ari Natter, NCSEA News)

State renewable energy laws survive repeal attempts — so far (by Nick Juliano, Midwest Energy News)

 

Wildlife Threatened by Renewable Energy Projects

Environmentalists are all for the development of renewable energy. And in 2012, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) predicted that as much as 80% of the nation’s electricity could come from renewables by 2050 with the right clean energy policies. But environmentalists also don’t want these projects to cause problems for animal species and habitats if the government moves quickly to permit projects without having sufficient mitigation efforts in place.

 

One organization, Defenders of Wildlife, issued a report discussing the fine balance that the government must maintain between promoting wind and solar projects, while also protecting species from being negatively impacted by such efforts.

 

For instance, a single solar farm in the California desert could require sacrificing thousands of acres of biologically fragile land that many species rely on, like the desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, and Mohave ground squirrel.

 

Likewise, wind farms have the potential to disrupt the habitats of many animals.

 

“Wind turbines, transmission towers and other vertical structures provide perching areas for predatory birds such as eagles and hawks,” Defenders of Wildlife wrote in its report. “Their presence can cause grassland birds, like the sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken, to move away from these areas—affecting the natural population distribution. Other negative impacts can include declines in breeding success and abundance and increased risks to population viability, increasing the likelihood that a population may be locally eradicated.”

Making Renewable Energy Wildlife Friendly (Defenders of Wildlife)

Renewable Energy Resource Development (Red Lodge Clearinghouse)

 

Wind Power Stirs up Jobs and Controversy

Wind power projects can provide both economic benefits and community nightmares, depending on which side of the debate you are.

 

A 2012 report co-produced by the NREL said local governments that develop wind-power facilities enjoy boosts in income and jobs.

 

For instance, wind projects elevated local economies and helped create new jobs in Iowa, the Dakotas, and other parts of the Great Plains.

 

The same could be said of DeKalb County, Illinois, 60 miles west of Chicago. There, wind-power company NextEra Energy introduced a wind farm with 126 turbines, and brought money to the county through leases, property taxes, and construction jobs.

 

But not everyone was happy with the project.

 

A group of citizens filed lawsuits against the county and NextEra, claiming the county zoning board failed to fully consider the impact of the turbines on nearby residents. Many complained that the 400-foot-tall structures cause sleep disturbances, vertigo, and other illnesses. The plaintiffs sought the removal of the machines, but ultimately settled the case with NextEra and the suit against the county was dismissed.

Money suggested as a way to calm wind turbine controversy (Climatide)

Wind farms stir up controversy with green power, income and jobs (by Alan Yu, Medill Reports Chicago)

Community Wind Arrives Stateside (by Tildy Bayar, Renewable Energy World)

 

 

Natural Gas Emissions

A 2012 report co-produced by the NREL concluded natural gas derived from shale produced about the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as natural gas obtained through more conventional means.

 

The study, performed by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis, a consortium of five universities and the NREL, was seen as vindication for gas drilling into shale reserves.

 

However, the following year another study, produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said natural gas production was responsible for enormous releases of methane gas into the atmosphere.

 

The EPA said more than six million metric tons of methane leaked from U.S. natural gas systems in 2011.

 

In terms of climate impact, the total of “fugitive methane” was equivalent to 432 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year over a 20-year period. The amount also was more than all the greenhouse gases from American petroleum refining, iron and steel, cement, and aluminum manufacturing facilities combined.

Report: Shale gas as clean as natural gas (by Mark Wilcox, Wyoming Business Report)

Report examines impact of natural gas on U.S. electric power (by Paul Dvorak, Windpower Engineering & Development)

Shale Gas Isn't a Low-Emissions Fuel -- Yet (by Andrew Steer, Bloomberg)

 

 

 

 

 

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Suggested Reforms:

Republican-Led Effort to Defund the NREL

Republican lawmakers called in 2011 for slashing programs that fund the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

 

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) was one of nine House members seeking to eliminate support for the NREL, claiming it and other energy programs like it had “failed to live up to their supposed potential.”

 

Democratic Representative Ed Perlmutter, who represents the district in which the national lab is located, disagreed with Republicans. He insisted the lab was an important source for jobs and economic activity, and that it would eventually generate 5,500 jobs and $714 million.

 

“NREL is a crown jewel in the world of renewable energy,” Leslie Oliver, a spokeswoman for Perlmutter, told the Denver Post. “It’s providing a lot of jobs; those are things we need to be fostering.”

Rep. Lamborn backs bid to unplug National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden (Denver Post)

Carroll: Lamborn has it backward (by Vincent Carroll, Denver Post)

Congress: U.S. lab a ‘breeding ground for green scams’ (by Tori Richards, Watchdog.org)

Obscure, unaccountable federal green energy lab targeted for spending cuts (by Tori Richards, Washington Examiner)

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Debate:

Should the “1603” renewable energy program be salvaged?

The 1603 program offered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury provided a 30% cash grant in lieu of tax credits to eligible solar projects. It proved to be extremely popular among solar developers.

 

But its mandate was set to expire in 2011.

 

The Obama administration, Democratic lawmakers, the Solar Energy Industries Association and many solar firms sought to extend the program beyond 2011.

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) introduced an amendment that would have extended the Section 1603 program and other renewable energy tax incentives. But the effort failed to receive approval from the Senate.

 

Nevertheless, the Treasury Department reported in 2013 that Section 1603 would pay out an additional $12 billion to projects still in the pipeline.

 

To date, the Recovery Act program provided $18.5 billion in cash payments in lieu of an investment tax credit for solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects.

1603 Grant Fails to Pass in the Senate (by Anna Noucas, Sol Systems)

Conservative Media Distort Jobs Benefits Of Renewable Energy Grant Program (by Jill Fitzsimmons, Media Matters for America)

U.S. Senate Rejects Amendment To Extend Section 1603 Program (by Jessica Lillian, Solar Industry Magazine)

Application for Section 1603 (U.S. Department of Treasury)

1603 program still has $12 billion for applicants (Lexology)

 

Pro (In Favor of Stopping It):

Conservatives strongly opposed the 1603 program, calling it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

 

One complaint centered around the fact that the program was badly flawed by not limiting eligibility based on the size of the solar system seeking funding.

 

Critics also argued that renewable energy was failing to produce the promise of “painless prosperity,” which was supposed to mean developing “green jobs” that would simultaneously decrease unemployment rates and reduce pollution.

 

Five projects in New York were cited as examples of waste. They received $300 million in grant money and operated at a “dismal 22.6% capacity factor in 2010.”

“Green Job” Fallacies (Part I: First Principles) (by Robert Michaels, MasterResource)

Spanish Wind, Revisited (by Robert Peltier, MasterResource)

Green Jobs: Fact or Fiction? (by Robert Michaels and Robert Murphy, Institute for Energy Research)

Section 1603 Grant Extension: Just Say No (Good money after bad–is the end near?) (by Lisa Linowes, MasterResource)

 

Con (Against Stopping It):

Supporters of 1603 contended the program had created about 155,000 direct industry jobs, with the potential to create an additional 37,000 if renewed.

 

They also argued the program created benefits beyond developing large-scale solar projects.

 

The majority of the 5,000 solar firms in the U.S. were small businesses, according to proponents, and many of them had benefitted to some degree from this program.

 

Anna Noucas at the Solar System Company wrote the program “created a low-risk cash transfer for projects, aiding the industry to grow at astronomical rates during its lifecycle, as well as lower capital costs to the producer and subsequently lowering consumer costs.  It enabled the solar industry to reach grid parity in Hawaii and California, and placed it on the same track for several other states.”

Lies and Renewable Energy (by Simon Mahan, Footprints)

NREL Response to the Report Study of the Effects on Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources from King Juan Carlos University (by Eric Lantz and Suzanne Tegen, National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

1603 Solar Treasury Program Up for Debate (Take Action Now!) (by Zachary Shahan, Clean Technica)

 

Should the U.S. government subsidize/give tax credits for renewable energy sources?

With the oil and gas industry having long enjoyed subsidies from Washington, promoters of alternative energy sources have insisted that tax breaks continue to be made available to renewable forms of energy.

 

But with federal deficits growing, Democrats have wanted subsidies for renewable energy to be paid for through the elimination of tax credits for petroleum and natural gas companies.

 

This strategy has not sat well with Republicans, who have long championed oil and gas. They don’t want oil and gas to suffer in order to extend help to renewables, while other opponents object altogether to giving breaks to solar and wind power businesses.

Should government subsidize renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and ethanol? (by Shannon Courtney and Adewale Atewogbade, Debate at Helium)

House Passes Renewable Energy Credits (by David M. Herszenhorn, New York Times)

 

Pro (Democratic View):

Democrats have couched tax breaks for solar and wind—which were not meant to be permanent—as a step toward energy independence and a moral victory for protecting the environment by encouraging production of clean alternative fuels.

 

Environmental groups also have championed the subsidies, calling them an important move to strengthen America’s clean energy economy. They add that by promoting solar and wind projects, the U.S. can help solve global warming and promote long-term development of clean energy technologies.

 

Some Democrats, like Governor Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, have linked renewable energy subsidies to job growth, pointing out that new solar and wind farms mean more construction work.

Pennsylvania Governor Rendell Calls for Congress to Extend Renewable Energy Tax Credits (PR Newswire)

Democrats push 'green' energy tax breaks (by Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times)

 

Con (Republican View):

Republicans object to ending tax incentives for big oil companies, saying to do so would only lead to further increases in the cost of gasoline. They point out that anytime the government increases taxes on an industry, the companies will pass on the expense to their customers.

 

The GOP has been joined by some surprising allies in the fight against subsidies for renewable energy sources. Paul Nahi, CEO of Enphase Energy, a solar power company, has said he doesn’t want tax breaks for his industry. He claims, “The best pathway to a stable renewable energy industry is to create self-sufficiency and independence from government financial assistance.”

 

Other supporters of solar and wind argue that the government should do away with all tax breaks for energy companies. “If a free market truly existed, the best of the new start-ups in renewable energies would triumph above all other energy providers,” Shannon Courtney wrote at Helium. “A free market essentially encourages the greatest productivity and least amount of waste. Certainly, in this arena, renewable energy providers would leapfrog their oil industry counterparts.”

Government Subsidies: Silent Killer Of Renewable Energy (by Paul Nahi, Forbes)

GOP blocks tax hikes for oil companies (Associated Press)

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Toto 2 years ago
Water, solar, and wind.Oddly enough the most conmlmoy found and under-utilized is probably methane. From human sewer systems to landfills, from animal production farms to compost production systems, there is a readily renewable source of methane. A number of folks consider methane to be less than environmentally friendly as its use does generate CO2. A number of folks consider it to be less than practical because one one source is likely to be a sole solution for an area/greater. A number of folks discount it because it is not necessarily a magic bullet that can be sold as the solution for use by all across the country, nor particularly by a private utility company. Still it exists and is not particularly being used for productive purposes.
Tom Reiber 2 years ago
i have been in the alternative energy industry for more than two decades, lived on it even longer. retired defense contractor in the field and have since retired my business as well. what i have to say will not make many happy, but it needs to be said. alternatives will never be the answer, ever! they cost far too much and are not consistent, they rely on too many variables when producing energy. these are perfect alternatives when power is not available, but that's as far as it g...

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Founded: 1977
Annual Budget: $282.3 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: about 1,700 (FY 2013)
Official Website: http://www.nrel.gov/
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Arvizu, Dan
Director
Dr. Dan Arvizu was appointed the eighth director of NREL on January 15, 2005. Dr. Arvizu is also the current Senior Vice President at Midwest Research Institute (MRI); MRI manages NREL for the Department of Energy. He is a current member of the National Science Board, appointed in 2004 by President Bush. Dr. Arvizu received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico (1973) and a Master’s Degree (1974) and Ph.D. (1981) in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. He first started working at AT&T Bell Telephone Labs Customer Switching Laboratory, then moved on to Sandia National Laboratories, where he spent 20 years directing Research Centers for Advanced Energy Technology, Technology Commercialization, and Material and Process Sciences. In 1998, Arvizu joined CH2M HILL Companies, Ltd. and became the Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President prior to his appointment at NREL. He has been a member of many advisory boards including: Secretary of Defense’s Army Science Board, Secretary of Energy’s National Coal Council, and from 2000-2002 he served on the Advisory Board for the G8 International Renewable Energy Task Force. Arvizu has been a campaign donor to members of Congress from both major parties.
 
 
 
 
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Overview:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the Department of Energy’s primary research and development center for collaborations with partners for the research, development and transfer of renewable energy technologies and their practical deployment and commercialization. The NREL’s mission is to analyze and understand alternative energy technologies and U.S. electrical grid system support to reduce emissions and dependence on conventional fuels. It collaborates in its work with other government agencies, private industry, and academia.

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History:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was launched in 1974 and began operating on July 5, 1977, as the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI). Its purpose was to research the means of utilizing the power of the sun.

 

The establishment of the SERI in Colorado was a key element in the overall national energy strategy of President Jimmy Carter, which included freeing the United States of its addiction to imported oil. In his speech dedicating the lab’s launch in Colorado, Carter noted that the nation’s spending on foreign oil had jumped from $2.7 billion in 1970 to more than $45 billion in 1977. “America’s hope for energy to sustain economic growth beyond the year 2000 rests in large measure on the development of renewable and essentially inexhaustible sources of energy,” he said. “No matter how good a job of conservation we do, the world's supply of oil and gas will dwindle, become more expensive, and finally run out.”

 

The SERI caught the eye of the public, and soon both the agency’s budget and research parameters expanded beyond its original focus on solar energy. As of 1981, 300 acres of land were donated to the DOE for the agency, courtesy of the state of Colorado. Within three years, the SERI’s first permanent structure, the Field Test Laboratory Building—holding 41 separate labs—was constructed. However, under the Ronald Reagan administration of the 1980s, the SERI’s budget was slashed by about 90%, resulting in a severe cutback in research projects and staffing.

 

During subsequent years, a heightened interest in the nation’s energy challenges gave the institute a renewed sense of purpose. In 1991, the SERI’s name was changed to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, at which point it was designated as a national lab and placed in the Department of Energy (DOE). With that change came a modification of its mission, which would now be the creation of clean and renewal energy technologies. In spite of that shot in the arm, funding for its research remained inconsistent.

 

In 2006, government funding of the NREL hit such a low that 32 employees had to be laid off. Five years later, in anticipation of congressional budget cuts, the lab was driven to reduce its work force by up to 150 people through the establishment of a voluntary buyout program.

 

Under the Obama administration, investment in the NREL has increased. Between 2009 and 2012, the DOE has spent more than $400 million on bolstering the agency’s infrastructure; and since 2011, the NREL’s work force has multiplied from 500 to more than 1,700. Additionally, the DOE has continued to acquire land for the NREL’s main site on South Table Mountain in Colorado, which currently stands at 328.67 acres. It also has a 305-acre wind technology facility in Boulder.

 

The NREL’s accomplishments over the years have included the development of “buried anode” technology (reverse battery creation for greater efficiency at lower cost), high-speed biomass analysis and biomass-to-ethanol conversion, wind-to-hydrogen generation, solar cell powering of spacecraft, alternate fuel production through a plant-decay/sugar regeneration process, glassless solar mirrors, and smart window technology.

 

One of the projects to which the NREL is contributing in 2013 is the development of microbes that will consume the methane in natural gas, thereby converting it into liquid diesel fuel. If the effort succeeds, it has the potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering dependence on foreign oil. A study that the NREL conducted the previous year determined that “renewable energy sources, accessed with commercially available technologies, could adequately supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.”

 

As of 2012, the NREL had active contracts with 15 other government agencies, 65 educational organizations, 28 non-profit outfits, and 448 companies with which it maintains partnerships.

 

 

 

 

 

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What it Does:

The NREL is the principle research facility for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (OEERE), Office of Science and the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. The NREL also provides technical assistance, energy planning and economic development for many organizations and industries in the U.S.

 

The laboratory is managed for the DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, a partnership between Battelle Memorial Institute and MRIGlobal (Midwest Research Institute). The Alliance’s five-year contract is worth $1.1 billion. Roughly 80% of the NREL’s funding comes from the DOE’s OEERE, with the balance coming from other DOE and outside sources.

 

The NREL’s goal is “a clean energy future,” and its approach to energy involves the relationship among four key systems: fuel production, transportation, built environment, and electricity generation and delivery.

 

Research and Development at the NREL involves 13 areas of focus for innovation in efficient and renewable energies with the goal of putting these technologies into the marketplace for the use by households and businesses:

 

Advanced Vehicles & Fuels Research aims at making more fuel-efficient technologies by testing and analyzing current technologies in order to reduce oil dependency and reduce emissions. This research also looks at removing technical barriers to make hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles more available. The NREL has worked closely with major car manufacturers such as General Motors and Ford to create economically competitive vehicles.

           

      •     Uses in Public Transportation

Hybrid Buses Costs and Benefits (EESI) (PDF)

Case Study: Ebus Hybrid Electric Buses and Trolleys (by R. Barnitt, NREL) (PDF)

NYC Black Town Cars To Go Green (Hybrid Cars)

 

  • Alternative Energy Vehicles

Validation of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle and Infrastructure Technology (PDF)

Test Drive: Honda's FCX fuel-cell car ready for its close-up (by James R. Healey, USA Today)

Reinventing the Automobile with Fuel Cell Technology (General Motors)

An Electric Car Unlike Any Other: More Torque than a Dodge Viper and Skinny as a Motorcycle (by Jesse A. Zirwes and Matthew de Paula, Forbes Autos)

 

Biomass Research studies biological material such as trees and agricultural crops to produce fuels to create electric power, heat or fuel. Biomass conversion technologies are developed in the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner.

 

  • Biomass Developments

Planet Power

Roadmap for Bioenergy and Biobased Products in the United States (pdf)

Renewable Energy Policy Project: Biomass Cooking Stoves

 

Buildings Research looks at reducing the large amount of energy used by structures. This research helps develop technologies to manage building energy use and effectively implement renewable energy capabilities.

 

  • Innovative, sustainable architecture

Sanyo: Solar Ark

 

 

Department of Defense (DoD) Energy Programs are supported by the NREL with the goal of advancing the implementation of DoD’s clean energy initiatives, reducing costs, minimizing risks in the field, and attaining energy security.

 

Electricity Integration Research focuses on ways for renewable energy technologies to be integrated into electrical grid planning and operations. This NREL division focuses on both distributed and transmission grid integration. The former deals with solar photovoltaic implementation, distributed wind, and vehicle-to-grid technologies; the latter with wind and large-scale solar power systems.

 

International Activities covers the NREL’s global initiatives—undertaken in collaboration with foreign governments and technical institutions—that address three strategic objectives: economic development, energy security, and environmental protection.

 

Solar Research at the NREL delves into two major branches of solar energy: photovoltaics (also known as solar electric systems), and solar thermal systems:

            Concentrating Solar Power Research looks at solar power plant and solar thermal          technologies to create large scale and advanced solar energy cost effective in the market.

Photovoltaic Research looks at limiting the nation’s use of fossil fuels by preparing alternative options and increase photovoltaic models and systems that are cost effective and efficient.

 

  • Solar Power to Improve Environment

Blending Wind and Solar Into the Diesel Generator Market (by Virinder Singh, REPP Research) (pdf)

Rural Electrification with Solar Energy as a Climate Protection Strategy (by Steven Kaufman, REPP)

Fuel from the Sky: Solar Power's Potential for Western Energy Supply (by Arnold Leitner, NREL) (pdf)

America's Solar Energy Potential (American Energy Independence)

 

  • Solar Energy Internationally

Cloudy Germany a Powerhouse in Solar Energy (by Craig Whitlock, Washington Post)

Solar energy in the European Union (Wikipedia)

Solar Energy Booming in China (by Zijun Li, Worldwatch Institute)

 

Technology Deployment involves the NREL’s support of various federal agencies, including the DOE, DoD, and others by providing technical and project assistance, training, and resources to help meet and exceed energy and environmental targets.

 

Energy Analysis looks at market, private and government relations, along with renewable energy developments, to create applicable policy recommendations. Research in this area takes a cost-benefit analysis of current and new technologies to understand environmental, economical, and security impacts.

 

Geothermal Technologies aims at converting geothermal energy into heat and electricity. This area is also concerned with drilling technologies and exploration and management of power plants.

  • Policy Options

Geothermal: Policy (Renewable Energy Policy Project)

The Future of Geothermal Energy: Impact of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) on the United States in the 21st Century (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) (pdf)

Geothermal: Environmental Impacts (Renewable Energy Policy Project)

 

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Research is focused on hydrogen production, storage, validity, and standardization. The goal is to help industry transport and use hydrogen and fuel cells in the safest and most cost effective way in order to compete with more traditional methods such as coal and oil.

Potential for Hydrogen Production from Key Renewable Resources in the U.S. (pdf)

 

Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program provides technical assistance, grants, and information resources to states, local governments, community agencies, utilities, Indian tribes, and overseas U.S. territories for their energy programs.

 

Wind Research aims at using this natural power to fuel many systems and make wind energy technologies more competitive against conventional energy methods. Focus is now on making low-wind turbine technology more cost-effective. The research and development is conducted in the National Wind Technology Center, built in 1993.

 

  • America’s Wind Power Potential

Wind Energy’s Growing Power Boosts Economy, Environment, & Energy Security (Wind Outlook) (pdf)

AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Third Quarter 2012 Market Report (American Wind Energy Association) (pdf)

 

  • Offshore Wind Energy

Regulating Offshore Wind Power and Aquaculture: Messages from Land and Sea (by Jeremy Firestone, Willett Kempton, Andrew Krueger and Christen E. Loper, University of Delaware) (pdf)

The Offshore Wind Power Debate: Views from Cape Cod (by Willett Kempton, Jeremy Firestone, Jonathan Lilley, Tracy Rouleau, Phillip Whitaker, University of Delaware) (pdf)

United States - Wind Resource Map (pdf)

 

  • European Union - Leader in Wind Energy

Global Wind Energy Council

Wind Power in Germany (Wikipedia)

 

 

Other Areas of Study at the NREL:

 

Energy Sciences conducts foundational scientific research that develops new concepts and knowledge in the chemical, biological, materials, and computer sciences.

 

Computational Science uses computer systems and applied mathematics to model and test renewable energy technologies. This research area also aids in understanding new energy alternatives in data and performance analysis.

 

Technology Transfer involves working directly with organizations and industries to transfer and commercialize energy saving and renewable energy technologies. Through technology partnership agreements, private and public organizations fund the NREL’s technical support and research development. Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) allows the NREL to collaborate on a development project. CRADAs use shared resources in order to retain intellectual property rights of both partners.

 

Renewable Energy: Economic and Environmental Issues for the U.S.

Renewable Energy: Economic and Environmental Issues (by David Pimentel, G. Rodrigues, T. Wane, R. Abrams, K. Goldberg, H. Staecker, E. Ma, L. Brueckner, L. Trovato, C. Chow, U. Govindarajulu, and S. Boerke, Bioscience)

Renewable Energy Sources in the United States (National Atlas of the United States)

 

Environmental Impact

Fuel-Cycle Fossil Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Fuel Ethanol Produced from U.S. Midwest Corn (Center for Transportation Research) (pdf)

Renewable energy wrecks environment, scientist claims (World Science)

 

NREL Organization Chart

NREL Research Facilities

What has the National Renewable Energy Lab done for the public good? (by Sam Levin, Denver Westword News)

 

From the Web Site of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Accomplishments

Awards and Honors

Business Opportunities

Commercialization and Technology Transfer

Community Outreach

Construction

Contact Information

Developer Network

Education Programs

Employment

Energy Analysis

Energy Analysis Newsletter

Energy Systems Integration

Events

Fact Sheet (pdf)

Foreign Nationals Program

Funding History

Image Gallery

Leadership

Learn About Renewable Energy

Library

Magazine

Models and Tools

News Archives

News Releases

News Subscription

Newsroom

Organization Chart

Overview

Programs

Publications Database

Renewable Resources Maps and Data

Research Participant Program

Research Facilities

Research Support Facility

Science and Technology

Solar Maps

Technology Deployment

Technology Partnership Agreements

U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database

Visiting NREL

Wind Maps

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has spent more than $2.1 billion between FY 2003 and FY 2013 on more than 600 contractor transactions, according to USAspending.gov. The top five types of products or services it paid for during that period were R&D facilities operation ($2,087,795,874), basic environmental sciences ($2,395,706), other R&D expenses ($11,558,543), maintenance/repair/rebuilding of electrical equipment ($55,566), and public relations services ($23,371). The top five recipients of this contractor spending were:

 

1. Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC                     $2,039,120,768          

2. Battelle Memorial Institute Inc.                                   $22,395,706          

3. UT-Battelle LLC                                                         $19,928,706          

4. Lockheed Martin Corporation                                     $15,060,000          

5. Lawrence Livermore National Security LLC             $11,558,543

 

The NREL’s launch and expansion of its facilities in Colorado has benefited the state’s economy. In FY 2011, the NREL’s presence had a net benefit to Colorado of $831.3 million, according to the University of Colorado’s Leeds College of Business.

 

The NREL’s renewable energy research budget was distributed to these six areas in FY 2010:

•           Solar Energy                                       $79.7 million

•           Wind Energy                                       $38.8 million

•           Biomass and Biorefinery Systems      $38.3 million

•           Hydrogen Technology                        $16.4 million

•           Geothermal Technology                        $4.8 million

•           Water Power                                         $4.2 million

 

 

 

 

 

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Controversies:

Bird Deaths at Altamont Wind Farm

After years of complaints, conservationists in the San Francisco Bay Area got some good news in 2013 about the problem of bird mortality at the Altamont Pass wind turbine area.

 

A study conducted by the consulting firm ICF International for the Alameda County Community Development Agency said deaths of eagles and three other bird of prey species had been reduced by about 50% since 2005.

 

Progress in cutting the annual number of bird deaths was attributed to a combination of removing obsolete turbines and paying closer attention to where new turbines were located.

 

The news came after earlier reports of rising bird deaths in the Altamont Pass, located between the East Bay and the Central Valley.

 

As recently as 2011, golden eagles, a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, were reportedly dying at more than 60 a year in the wind farm.

 

Although the number of deaths may be dropping, some critics complained that the numbers were only rough estimates. Others noted that analysts miscalculated the number of bird deaths because the search area around each turbine was limited. In addition, birds found still breathing that died a few days later were not counted as fatalities.

Big Wind & Avian Mortality (Part II: Hiding the Problem) (by Jim Wiegand, Master Resource)

Wildlife Advocate Pressure Cuts Altamont Wind Bird Kills In Half (by Chris Clarke, KCET)

Wind power turbines in Altamont Pass threaten protected birds (by Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times)

Altamont Pass turbines kill fewer birds (by David Baker, San Francisco Chronicle)

 

Legislative Attempts to Roll Back Renewable Mandates

Opponents of renewable energy mandates failed in consecutive years to rollback commitments to solar and wind projects in state legislatures across the United States.

 

The requirements, known as renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which require utilities to provide certain levels of energy from renewable sources, are considered one of the largest drivers of clean energy generation in the U.S.

 

However, conservatives have attacked the mandates arguing such policies drive up the price that consumers pay for power.

 

In 2012, at least 19 bills were introduced. Five would have repealed or frozen state RPS laws and 14 would have weakened them, according to the North Carolina Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. Only three measures that sought to undermine the standards were approved—in Ohio, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

 

The first half of 2013 saw at least half a dozen states introduce legislation to repeal or weaken RPS laws. None were enacted.

State Renewable Energy Policy Developments - April Recap (Natural Resources Defense Council)

State Legislators Beat Back Efforts to Weaken Renewable Requirements (by Ari Natter, NCSEA News)

State renewable energy laws survive repeal attempts — so far (by Nick Juliano, Midwest Energy News)

 

Wildlife Threatened by Renewable Energy Projects

Environmentalists are all for the development of renewable energy. And in 2012, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) predicted that as much as 80% of the nation’s electricity could come from renewables by 2050 with the right clean energy policies. But environmentalists also don’t want these projects to cause problems for animal species and habitats if the government moves quickly to permit projects without having sufficient mitigation efforts in place.

 

One organization, Defenders of Wildlife, issued a report discussing the fine balance that the government must maintain between promoting wind and solar projects, while also protecting species from being negatively impacted by such efforts.

 

For instance, a single solar farm in the California desert could require sacrificing thousands of acres of biologically fragile land that many species rely on, like the desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, and Mohave ground squirrel.

 

Likewise, wind farms have the potential to disrupt the habitats of many animals.

 

“Wind turbines, transmission towers and other vertical structures provide perching areas for predatory birds such as eagles and hawks,” Defenders of Wildlife wrote in its report. “Their presence can cause grassland birds, like the sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken, to move away from these areas—affecting the natural population distribution. Other negative impacts can include declines in breeding success and abundance and increased risks to population viability, increasing the likelihood that a population may be locally eradicated.”

Making Renewable Energy Wildlife Friendly (Defenders of Wildlife)

Renewable Energy Resource Development (Red Lodge Clearinghouse)

 

Wind Power Stirs up Jobs and Controversy

Wind power projects can provide both economic benefits and community nightmares, depending on which side of the debate you are.

 

A 2012 report co-produced by the NREL said local governments that develop wind-power facilities enjoy boosts in income and jobs.

 

For instance, wind projects elevated local economies and helped create new jobs in Iowa, the Dakotas, and other parts of the Great Plains.

 

The same could be said of DeKalb County, Illinois, 60 miles west of Chicago. There, wind-power company NextEra Energy introduced a wind farm with 126 turbines, and brought money to the county through leases, property taxes, and construction jobs.

 

But not everyone was happy with the project.

 

A group of citizens filed lawsuits against the county and NextEra, claiming the county zoning board failed to fully consider the impact of the turbines on nearby residents. Many complained that the 400-foot-tall structures cause sleep disturbances, vertigo, and other illnesses. The plaintiffs sought the removal of the machines, but ultimately settled the case with NextEra and the suit against the county was dismissed.

Money suggested as a way to calm wind turbine controversy (Climatide)

Wind farms stir up controversy with green power, income and jobs (by Alan Yu, Medill Reports Chicago)

Community Wind Arrives Stateside (by Tildy Bayar, Renewable Energy World)

 

 

Natural Gas Emissions

A 2012 report co-produced by the NREL concluded natural gas derived from shale produced about the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as natural gas obtained through more conventional means.

 

The study, performed by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis, a consortium of five universities and the NREL, was seen as vindication for gas drilling into shale reserves.

 

However, the following year another study, produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said natural gas production was responsible for enormous releases of methane gas into the atmosphere.

 

The EPA said more than six million metric tons of methane leaked from U.S. natural gas systems in 2011.

 

In terms of climate impact, the total of “fugitive methane” was equivalent to 432 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year over a 20-year period. The amount also was more than all the greenhouse gases from American petroleum refining, iron and steel, cement, and aluminum manufacturing facilities combined.

Report: Shale gas as clean as natural gas (by Mark Wilcox, Wyoming Business Report)

Report examines impact of natural gas on U.S. electric power (by Paul Dvorak, Windpower Engineering & Development)

Shale Gas Isn't a Low-Emissions Fuel -- Yet (by Andrew Steer, Bloomberg)

 

 

 

 

 

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Suggested Reforms:

Republican-Led Effort to Defund the NREL

Republican lawmakers called in 2011 for slashing programs that fund the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

 

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) was one of nine House members seeking to eliminate support for the NREL, claiming it and other energy programs like it had “failed to live up to their supposed potential.”

 

Democratic Representative Ed Perlmutter, who represents the district in which the national lab is located, disagreed with Republicans. He insisted the lab was an important source for jobs and economic activity, and that it would eventually generate 5,500 jobs and $714 million.

 

“NREL is a crown jewel in the world of renewable energy,” Leslie Oliver, a spokeswoman for Perlmutter, told the Denver Post. “It’s providing a lot of jobs; those are things we need to be fostering.”

Rep. Lamborn backs bid to unplug National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden (Denver Post)

Carroll: Lamborn has it backward (by Vincent Carroll, Denver Post)

Congress: U.S. lab a ‘breeding ground for green scams’ (by Tori Richards, Watchdog.org)

Obscure, unaccountable federal green energy lab targeted for spending cuts (by Tori Richards, Washington Examiner)

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Debate:

Should the “1603” renewable energy program be salvaged?

The 1603 program offered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury provided a 30% cash grant in lieu of tax credits to eligible solar projects. It proved to be extremely popular among solar developers.

 

But its mandate was set to expire in 2011.

 

The Obama administration, Democratic lawmakers, the Solar Energy Industries Association and many solar firms sought to extend the program beyond 2011.

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) introduced an amendment that would have extended the Section 1603 program and other renewable energy tax incentives. But the effort failed to receive approval from the Senate.

 

Nevertheless, the Treasury Department reported in 2013 that Section 1603 would pay out an additional $12 billion to projects still in the pipeline.

 

To date, the Recovery Act program provided $18.5 billion in cash payments in lieu of an investment tax credit for solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects.

1603 Grant Fails to Pass in the Senate (by Anna Noucas, Sol Systems)

Conservative Media Distort Jobs Benefits Of Renewable Energy Grant Program (by Jill Fitzsimmons, Media Matters for America)

U.S. Senate Rejects Amendment To Extend Section 1603 Program (by Jessica Lillian, Solar Industry Magazine)

Application for Section 1603 (U.S. Department of Treasury)

1603 program still has $12 billion for applicants (Lexology)

 

Pro (In Favor of Stopping It):

Conservatives strongly opposed the 1603 program, calling it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

 

One complaint centered around the fact that the program was badly flawed by not limiting eligibility based on the size of the solar system seeking funding.

 

Critics also argued that renewable energy was failing to produce the promise of “painless prosperity,” which was supposed to mean developing “green jobs” that would simultaneously decrease unemployment rates and reduce pollution.

 

Five projects in New York were cited as examples of waste. They received $300 million in grant money and operated at a “dismal 22.6% capacity factor in 2010.”

“Green Job” Fallacies (Part I: First Principles) (by Robert Michaels, MasterResource)

Spanish Wind, Revisited (by Robert Peltier, MasterResource)

Green Jobs: Fact or Fiction? (by Robert Michaels and Robert Murphy, Institute for Energy Research)

Section 1603 Grant Extension: Just Say No (Good money after bad–is the end near?) (by Lisa Linowes, MasterResource)

 

Con (Against Stopping It):

Supporters of 1603 contended the program had created about 155,000 direct industry jobs, with the potential to create an additional 37,000 if renewed.

 

They also argued the program created benefits beyond developing large-scale solar projects.

 

The majority of the 5,000 solar firms in the U.S. were small businesses, according to proponents, and many of them had benefitted to some degree from this program.

 

Anna Noucas at the Solar System Company wrote the program “created a low-risk cash transfer for projects, aiding the industry to grow at astronomical rates during its lifecycle, as well as lower capital costs to the producer and subsequently lowering consumer costs.  It enabled the solar industry to reach grid parity in Hawaii and California, and placed it on the same track for several other states.”

Lies and Renewable Energy (by Simon Mahan, Footprints)

NREL Response to the Report Study of the Effects on Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources from King Juan Carlos University (by Eric Lantz and Suzanne Tegen, National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

1603 Solar Treasury Program Up for Debate (Take Action Now!) (by Zachary Shahan, Clean Technica)

 

Should the U.S. government subsidize/give tax credits for renewable energy sources?

With the oil and gas industry having long enjoyed subsidies from Washington, promoters of alternative energy sources have insisted that tax breaks continue to be made available to renewable forms of energy.

 

But with federal deficits growing, Democrats have wanted subsidies for renewable energy to be paid for through the elimination of tax credits for petroleum and natural gas companies.

 

This strategy has not sat well with Republicans, who have long championed oil and gas. They don’t want oil and gas to suffer in order to extend help to renewables, while other opponents object altogether to giving breaks to solar and wind power businesses.

Should government subsidize renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and ethanol? (by Shannon Courtney and Adewale Atewogbade, Debate at Helium)

House Passes Renewable Energy Credits (by David M. Herszenhorn, New York Times)

 

Pro (Democratic View):

Democrats have couched tax breaks for solar and wind—which were not meant to be permanent—as a step toward energy independence and a moral victory for protecting the environment by encouraging production of clean alternative fuels.

 

Environmental groups also have championed the subsidies, calling them an important move to strengthen America’s clean energy economy. They add that by promoting solar and wind projects, the U.S. can help solve global warming and promote long-term development of clean energy technologies.

 

Some Democrats, like Governor Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, have linked renewable energy subsidies to job growth, pointing out that new solar and wind farms mean more construction work.

Pennsylvania Governor Rendell Calls for Congress to Extend Renewable Energy Tax Credits (PR Newswire)

Democrats push 'green' energy tax breaks (by Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times)

 

Con (Republican View):

Republicans object to ending tax incentives for big oil companies, saying to do so would only lead to further increases in the cost of gasoline. They point out that anytime the government increases taxes on an industry, the companies will pass on the expense to their customers.

 

The GOP has been joined by some surprising allies in the fight against subsidies for renewable energy sources. Paul Nahi, CEO of Enphase Energy, a solar power company, has said he doesn’t want tax breaks for his industry. He claims, “The best pathway to a stable renewable energy industry is to create self-sufficiency and independence from government financial assistance.”

 

Other supporters of solar and wind argue that the government should do away with all tax breaks for energy companies. “If a free market truly existed, the best of the new start-ups in renewable energies would triumph above all other energy providers,” Shannon Courtney wrote at Helium. “A free market essentially encourages the greatest productivity and least amount of waste. Certainly, in this arena, renewable energy providers would leapfrog their oil industry counterparts.”

Government Subsidies: Silent Killer Of Renewable Energy (by Paul Nahi, Forbes)

GOP blocks tax hikes for oil companies (Associated Press)

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Toto 2 years ago
Water, solar, and wind.Oddly enough the most conmlmoy found and under-utilized is probably methane. From human sewer systems to landfills, from animal production farms to compost production systems, there is a readily renewable source of methane. A number of folks consider methane to be less than environmentally friendly as its use does generate CO2. A number of folks consider it to be less than practical because one one source is likely to be a sole solution for an area/greater. A number of folks discount it because it is not necessarily a magic bullet that can be sold as the solution for use by all across the country, nor particularly by a private utility company. Still it exists and is not particularly being used for productive purposes.
Tom Reiber 2 years ago
i have been in the alternative energy industry for more than two decades, lived on it even longer. retired defense contractor in the field and have since retired my business as well. what i have to say will not make many happy, but it needs to be said. alternatives will never be the answer, ever! they cost far too much and are not consistent, they rely on too many variables when producing energy. these are perfect alternatives when power is not available, but that's as far as it g...

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Founded: 1977
Annual Budget: $282.3 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: about 1,700 (FY 2013)
Official Website: http://www.nrel.gov/
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Arvizu, Dan
Director
Dr. Dan Arvizu was appointed the eighth director of NREL on January 15, 2005. Dr. Arvizu is also the current Senior Vice President at Midwest Research Institute (MRI); MRI manages NREL for the Department of Energy. He is a current member of the National Science Board, appointed in 2004 by President Bush. Dr. Arvizu received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico (1973) and a Master’s Degree (1974) and Ph.D. (1981) in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. He first started working at AT&T Bell Telephone Labs Customer Switching Laboratory, then moved on to Sandia National Laboratories, where he spent 20 years directing Research Centers for Advanced Energy Technology, Technology Commercialization, and Material and Process Sciences. In 1998, Arvizu joined CH2M HILL Companies, Ltd. and became the Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President prior to his appointment at NREL. He has been a member of many advisory boards including: Secretary of Defense’s Army Science Board, Secretary of Energy’s National Coal Council, and from 2000-2002 he served on the Advisory Board for the G8 International Renewable Energy Task Force. Arvizu has been a campaign donor to members of Congress from both major parties.
 
 
 
 
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