by Dan Broderick
(Chicago, Illinois, USA)
In his State of the Union Address for 2007, ex.President George W. Bush called for a 22% increase in federal grants for research and developmentof alternative energy. However, in a speech he gave soon after, he said to those assembled, I recognize that there has been some interesting mixed signals when it comes to funding.
Where the mixed signals were coming from concerned the fact that at the same time the ex.President was calling on more government backing for alternative energy research and development, the NREL—the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of Golden, Colardo—was laying off workers and contractors left and right. Apparently, the Laboratory got the hint, because soon after the State of the Union Address, everyone was re-hired.
The second speech of the President's was actually given at the NREL. There is almost unanimous public support for the federal backing through research grants, tax breaks, and other financial incentives of research and development of alternative energy sources.
The NREL is the nation's leading component of the National Bioenergy Center, a “virtual” center that has no central bricks and mortar office. The NREL's raison d'etre is the advancing of the US Department of Energy's and the United States' alternative energy objectives.
The laboratory's field researchers and staff scientists, in the words of Laboratory Director Dan Arvizu, “support critical market objectives to accelerate research from scientific innovations to market-viablealternative energy solutions. At the core of this strategic direction are NREL's research and technology development areas.
These areas 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.” The federally-backed Laboratory directly helps along the United States' objectives for discovering renewable alternative fuels for powering our economy and our lifestyles.
The NREL is set up to have several areas of expertise in alternative energy research and development. It spearheads research and development efforts into renewable sources of electricity; these would include such things as solar power, wind power, biomass power, and geothermal power.
It also spearheads research and development of renewable fuels for powering our vehicles such as biomass and biodiesel fuels and hydrogen fuel cells.
Then, it seeks to develop plans for integrated system enginnering; this includes bringing alternative energy into play within buildings, electrical grids and delivery systems, and transportation infrastructures. The Laboratory is also set up for strategic development and analysis ofalternative energy objectives through the forces of economics, market analysis and planning, and alternative energy investment portfolios structurings.
The NREL is additionally equipped with a Technology Transfer Office. This Office supports laboratory scientists and engineers in the practical application of and ability to make a living from their expertise and the technologies they develop.
NREL's research and development staff and its facilities are recognized for their remarkable prowess by private industry, which is reflected in the hundreds of collaborative projects and licensed technologies that the Laboratory now has with both public and private partners.
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