New "Green Building," Biomass and Solar Facilities to Transform how NREL Uses Power

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a highly efficient and “green” Research Support Facility, and announced two major renewable power projects at the Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

These projects further President Bush’s to increase the use of clean, renewable energy and maximize energy efficiency across the federal government. NREL’s new Research Support Facility promises to be one of the most “green” buildings ever constructed; the new Renewable Fuel Heating Plant will use biomass to cut NREL’s future natural gas use by 75 percent; and the Mesa Top PV Project – a new five-acre photovoltaic array, and one of the largest solar power systems in Colorado – will help power the lab’s main campus.

These projects underscore NREL’s role in advancing DOE’s Transformational Energy Action Management (TEAM) Initiative, a Department-wide effort to maximize energy efficiency and renewable energy generation across the DOE complex. TEAM Initiative puts DOE on an aggressive footing toward meeting and possibly exceeding President Bush’s executive over to reduce energy use across the federal government. DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner and NREL Director Dan Arvizu joined Secretary Bodman for today’s groundbreaking ceremony and announcements.

“It is fitting that the Nation’s leading research center on renewable energy and energy efficiency is also a leader in putting these vital technologies to use,” Secretary Bodman said. “These projects truly set a new precedent for how we use energy and I hope they will serve as models for future federal clean energy projects. Through TEAM Initiative, and exemplary projects like these at NREL, DOE is on track to meet and exceed its commitment to reduce energy intensity (energy consumption per square foot) at its facilities by 30 percent nationwide, saving taxpayers roughly $90 million a year.”

NREL’s 210,000 square-foot Research Support Facility is designed to be a model for sustainable, high-performance design, and will provide DOE-owned work space for administrative staff who currently occupy leased space. It will make substantial use of daylighting, dramatically reducing energy use and providing a pleasant and productive working environment. The RSF has been designed to achieve a LEED® (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) Platinum designation – the highest benchmark awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.

NREL’s Renewable Fuel Heating Plant will provide heat to the RSF and other research buildings on the Laboratory’s South Table Mountain campus by using biomass such as wood chips from forest thinning along Colorado’s Front Range. This Plant will be constructed adjacent to the existing Field Test Laboratory Building, and operate in conjunction with an existing natural gas-fueled boiler system. It is expected to be completed in May 2008. The Renewable Fuels Heating Plant will use an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) with a third party provider, Ameresco Energy Services Co. Under the ESPC, Ameresco will pay for construction of the project and be repaid with NREL’s energy cost savings.

The Mesa Top PV Project will be located near the NREL Solar Radiation Research Laboratory, and will produce an estimated 750kW of clean, renewable electric power from solar energy that will be used on site. This five-acre span of solar panels is expected to be completed in May 2008; the installation could provide up to seven percent of the electricity NREL uses. This project uses several agreements involving DOE’s Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Golden Field Office, SunEdison, and Xcel Energy. Under these agreements, SunEdison will develop the solar energy system, and in turn, receive federal tax credits, along with revenues from both the sale of electricity to DOE and Xcel Energy's purchase of the Renewable Energy Credits associated with the generation. DOE will purchase that power on behalf of NREL at a price equal to what it currently pays for electricity from Xcel Energy.

“By combining sound policy and tax incentives with DOE’s commitment to smart business practices, we are clearing a path for other agencies to follow,” Assistant Secretary Karsner noted. “This is a big win for clean energy, for our environment, for our nation’s energy security, and for taxpayers. I congratulate the Department, our Lab, WAPA, Ameresco, SunEdison, and Xcel Energy for thinking creatively and implementing such transformational projects.”

The Renewable Fuel Heating Plant and the Mesa Top PV Project are the latest in a long line of measures DOE has undertaken to lessen overall energy use, increase use of renewably energy, and confront climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Both projects are notable for their use of innovative and increasingly popular private financing and contracting mechanisms that can provide more clean energy, more quickly, while minimizing federal capital expenditures, and delivering long-term financial savings for the government and taxpayers.

“At NREL, we are proud that these major new facilities will enhance our capabilities, and provide reliable, renewable energy to power our growing research campus,” Director Arvizu said. “This is more evidence that DOE and NREL will continue to walk the talk when it comes to clean energy technology.”

NREL, situated on more than 625 acres across multiple sites near Golden, CO, is the Nation’s primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development (R&D). Its mission and strategy focus on advancing our Nation’s energy goals. Its scientists and researchers support critical market objectives to accelerate research from scientific innovations to market-viable alternative energy solutions. At the core of this strategic direction are NREL’s research and technology development areas; which span from understanding renewable resources for energy, to the conversion of these resources to renewable electricity and fuels, and ultimately to the use of renewable electricity and fuels in homes, commercial buildings, and vehicles. NREL directly contributes to our Nation’s goal for finding new renewable ways to power our homes, businesses, and cars.

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