Alliance for Sustainable Energy to manage NREL

By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted August 1, 2008 at 11:04 a.m. CST

The U.S. DOE has selected the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC to be the next management contractor for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

NREL is the nation's primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development, with the goal of advancing U.S. energy goals. The laboratory conducts research in many areas, including biomass, wind, geothermal, and photovoltaics.

The new management entity pairs two non-profit organizations, the Midwest Research Institute and Battelle, in a partnership that will enhance NREL's leadership and help accelerate meeting national energy goals.

"We are honored that DOE has selected our team to lead NREL," said Dan Arvizu, Alliance president and laboratory director. "Our primary mission will be to support DOE in the development and deployment of innovative, high impact renewable energy technologies. The Alliance hopes that a fortunate byproduct of this mission will be the creation of a renewable energy 'Silicon Valley,' emanating from the laboratory, the state of Colorado, and the Front Range, while reaching out to national and international connections for wider impact on clean energy."

A non-profit organization with 1,800 employees, the Midwest Research Institute performs contract research and laboratory consulting services for clients in government, industry, and academia. As one of the nation's leading independence research institutes, the Midwest Research Institute conducts research in national security and defense, energy and environment, life sciences, agriculture and food safety, as well as infrastructure. Battelle, a subcontractor of the Midwest Research Institute, is a non-profit independent research and development organization with 20,000 employees in 120 locations worldwide, and manages or co-manages six national laboratories for the U.S. DOE.

Since 1977 the Midwest Research Institute has been managing NREL. A 60-day transition period will be implemented to facilitate the change in management, with the Alliance taking over full management operations and responsibilities once the Midwest Research Institute's existing contract is complete. The Alliance will be governed by a 15-member Alliance Board of Directors composed of five executives each from Midwest Research Institute and Battelle, as well as senior level officials from the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, University of Colorado-Boulder, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.

"We have already begun our trajectory to transform NREL from a great laboratory to our concept of the world's premiere laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency,' said James Spigarelli, Midwest Research Institute president and chief executive officer. "Our history at NREL provides us with a solid foundation, and we will build on that foundation with new programs, relationships, and corporate investments that position the laboratory as the premier center for renewable energy and energy efficiency research, with a much stronger focus on technology commercialization and deployment."

Several biomass-related projects are being conducted by NREL and its partners. ConocoPhillips currently has a research agreement with the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, which is part of a NREL joint venture, to create triglycerides from algae that can be converted to biodiesel, renewable diesel, renewable jet fuel, and renewable gasoline. Dow Chemical Co. and NREL are working to develop a process that will transform biomass into ethanol and chemical building blocks that can be used in many applications, including plastics. DuPont and NREL partnered in a biomass project to develop the world's first biorefinery, and Chevron and NREL are collaborating on an algae biofuels project.