The National Renewable Energy Lab

View NREL Letter to Greenstar
View Department of Energy Letter to ASE and Greenstar

As the nation's leading center for renewable energy research, NREL is developing new energy technologies to benefit both the environment and the economy.

The production and use of conventional, fossil-fuel based energy accounts for 95 percent of all air pollution and $50 billion in U.S. health care costs every year. In contrast, clean energy sources such as sunlight and wind can be harnessed to produce electricity, process heat, fuel and valuable chemicals with little-if any-pollution. Sunlight also can be harnessed for tasks such as cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater.

There's no shortage of renewable energy resources. North Dakota has enough wind to supply 35 percent of the total U.S. electricity demand. The sunlight falling on the United States in one day contains more than twice the energy we consume in an entire year. Fast-growing plants and geothermal are other self-renewing resources awaiting the right technologies for harvesting. Continued research will ensure that these technologies are efficient, reliable and affordable.

America now imports more than half its oil at a cost of $52 billion annually. New energy technologies based on indigenous, self-renewing resources will help keep these dollars at home to strengthen the economy and create as many as a 300,000 new jobs for American workers. And, they will give U.S. companies a competitive edge in the $400-billion-a-year global market for "green" goods and services.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was established by the Solar Energy Research Development and Demonstration Act of 1974. Originally called the Solar Energy Research Institute, NREL began operating in July 1977 and was designated a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy in September 1991.

Twenty years of research have yielded remarkable progress in many renewable energy technologies. The cost of wind energy has declined from 40¢ per kilowatt-hour to about 5¢. Photovoltaic systems can now be manufactured for about $2.20 per watt, down from $4.50 per watt in 1980. And ethanol costs have plummeted from $4 per gallon in the early 1980s to $1.22 today.

With guidance and funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, NREL researchers will continue to improve efficiencies and lower costs to competitive levels. NREL also is working with utilities, state regulatory agencies, the World Bank and international trade groups to make sure that renewable energy technologies reach the marketplace as quickly as possible.

NREL's mission is to lead the nation toward a sustainable energy future by developing renewable energy technologies, improving energy efficiency, advancing related science and engineering and facilitating commercialization.

NREL is a national laboratory owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by the Midwest Research Institute of Kansas City, Mo.

Research Programs.
Almost 50 areas of scientific investigation include photovoltaics, wind energy, biomass-derived fuels and chemicals, energy-efficient buildings, advanced vehicles, solar manufacturing, industrial processes, solar thermal systems, hydrogen fuel cells, superconductivity, geothermal and waste-to-energy technologies. Many of NREL's research achievements have been ranked among the nation's most significant technical innovations by R&D Magazine, Discover, and Popular Science.

Funding. NREL's operating budget for fiscal year 1997 was about $158 million. About 93 percent of NREL's funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, with the remainder from sources such as grants and cost-shared research with industry. NREL has contributed more than $27.3 million to cost-shared research agreements, with U.S. companies and universities providing another $67.7 million.

NREL employs about 800 researchers, engineers, analysts and administrative staff. An additional 200 to 300 visiting professionals, graduate students, interns and leased workers can be found at NREL's main campus at various times throughout the year.

NREL's 300-acre campus is located at the foot of South Table Mountain in Golden, Colo. Major research facilities include:

Solar Energy Research Facility-photovoltaics, superconductivity and materials science
Field Test Laboratory Building-alternative fuels, biomass-derived chemicals and
genetic engineering
Thermal Test Facility-buildings research and energy efficiency
Photovoltaic Outdoor Test Facility
Alternative Fuels User Facility and Process Development Unit
Solar Furnace and Solar Radiation Research Laboratory
National Wind Technology Center (north of Golden)

Industry Partnerships:
About 45 percent of NREL's funding returns directly to the private sector through subcontracts, cost-shared research agreements and procurements. NREL awarded $104 million in subcontracts and procurements in FY 1997. Research partners include more than 70 universities, 250 companies, 25 state energy offices and 80 not-for-profit organizations. NREL's progressive business practices have been honored by the Small Business Administration, Minority Enterprises Inc. and the Federal Laboratory Consortium.

For more information:

1617 Cole Blvd.
Golden, Colorado 80401-3393
Main Number: (303) 275-3000

Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC)
The U.S. DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy provides free general information and technical and business assistance through EREC.

Request information by phone or by mail: P.O. Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116; fax: 1-703-893-0400; e-mail:; or through the World Wide Web at:

In September 1998, the National Renewable Energy Lab issued a report on the use of solar and other alternative energy sources as part of an overall health program in developing countries. The report echoes much of Greenstar's mission; in fact, it details a how a solar community center might be designed for village-level deployment that is parallel in many ways to the Greenstar system.

The full report is available here; "Renewable Energy for Rural Health Clinics." Here is a concept design image from this paper:


The complete report is approx. 850K, in PDF format; requires Adobe Acrobat. If you don't have this free program, download it at

Greenstar is proud to collaborate closely with NREL in deploying our programs.