Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Date: 1/1/95    Record No.: 10086
Contact: Gary Nakarado 303-275-3000

NREL was opened in 1977 as the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI), as a national center for federally sponsored R&D on solar energy. It gained national laboratory status in 1991, and is contractor-operated by the Midwest Research Institute.

NREL has a very specific mission to develop and to facilitate the deployment of renewable/sustainable energy technology, to improve energy efficiency, and to advance related science and engineering. A key element is the establishment of a sound technological information base, and detailed policy analysis of options, so the government and the private sector can make well informed choices.

The budget in FY 1994 was $214 million, 95% of which came from the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE/EE), with most of that coming form the Office of Utility Technology. Nearly 1/2 of the budget goes via subcontracts to industry and universities.

There are approximately 1000 employees at the main facility in Golden CO. The staffing and budget are on an upswing in the last few years, recovering much of the ground lost in a dramatic downturn in the 80's, when SERI came close to being closed under the Reagan administration. (Recent election results giving Republicans control of Congress could lead to similar efforts.)

The organization chart shows two Deputy Directors reporting to the Director, one for Operations and the other for Laboratory Development. The seven major research divisions are technology-based, and align with the DOE/EE Program Offices. Reporting to Operations, these include Basic Sciences, Photovoltaics, Alternate Fuels, Industrial Technologies, Buildings & Energy Systems, Analytic Studies, and the National Wind Technology Center.

Program Offices report on the Development side. These are very small staff groups with responsibility to coordinate activities across the Laboratory in particular areas, such as Utility, Photovoltaic, International, Transportation, and State & Local Partnerships. The Technology Transfer Office also reports here.

Dr. Charles F. Gay was named as Director on January 20, 1995. Previously he'd been president of Siemens Solar Group and also of Arco Solar.

Dr. Bill Marshall, Deputy Director for Operations, came from Sandia 2 years ago where he spent 32 years. Sandia and NREL continue to plan jointly and coordinate their respective programs. Dr. Robert Stokes is Deputy Director for Laboratory Development.

NREL has a Science & Industry Advisory Board with 20 high-level representatives that reviews the Lab's overall program, and each Division has an advisory panel as well, as do some programs. There are also specific interest groups, such as the Wind Advisory Panel and the PV4U for photovoltaics. For the most part, the electric utility industry representation on the panels has been by EPRI.

Visiting NREL, one can't help but notice a strong degree of enthusiasm and commitment on the part of everyone there. People really seem to believe in what they're doing.

There are fewer instances of "unharvested jewels" than one tends to see at the multi-program labs, probably because NREL's mission is so specific, it is relatively young, and by intent and by the nature of the work, there is usually an industrial partner involved very early in most projects.

In fact, in the past there has been relatively little contact with "users," as distinct from manufacturers, and NREL is seeking increased presence with utilities in particular. One of the main things they have to offer utilities is a "reality check" on any aspect of renewable energy.