The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum is a member of the Conservative Energy Network (CEN), a network of 18 state-based conservative clean energy and energy efficiency organizations seeking to educate conservative leaders and the public about the economic, security, and conservation benefits of renewable energy. Twice a year, CEN members get together to share insights, best practices, and strategies for the upcoming months. Our latest gathering was held the third week of July in beautiful Denver, Colorado.

While we were there, we had the amazing opportunity to tour the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. As we walked across the campus, our tour guide talked about the many ways that the buildings had been designed to maximize energy efficiency. Many of the buildings on NREL’s Golden campus have achieved either Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status or their energy usage is net zero (and sometimes both). Energy efficiency was a recurring theme of our tour. 

We spent most of our time in the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) which houses a number of laboratories, the High Performance Computing center, and the control room where experiments across the laboratories are monitored. Our first stop was the Insight Center Visualization Room, where we saw the advanced modeling tools being used for grid research. A constantly changing display of maps, charts, and graphs showed us a possible grid of the future, where energy from wind and solar are fully integrated.

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From there, we went to the Collaboration Room, which has six projectors that illuminate one wall and the floor. In this room, researchers are able to experience in real time the testing and simulation of equipment and technologies ranging from molecular structures to wind turbines. Wearing 3D glasses, we were able to move around in the turbulent wakes of a multi-turbine array and see firsthand how the placement of multiple wind turbines in relation to each other affects their functionality.  

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The tour continued with a look at Peregrine, NREL’s High Performance Computer (HPC). Not only is Peregrine the largest HPC system "dedicated to advancing renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies", but it is also incredibly energy efficient. It uses warm-water liquid cooling and waste heat capture and reuse to reduce energy use, lower energy costs, and heat the entire ESIF.

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The rest of the tour consisted of looking down into a number of laboratories from viewing areas on the floor above. We saw vehicles, generators, batteries, light bulbs, and appliances. These labs have already produced more than 800 patented or patent-pending technologies and they continue to conduct research and development in thirteen different programs. 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory "advances the science and engineering of energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and renewable power technologies and  provides the knowledge to integrate and optimize energy systems." We applaud the work they are doing and are grateful for the opportunity to visit the NREL site and see their innovation for ourselves. 

Note: All quotes are taken from the NREL website (https://www.nrel.gov/) and photos are from the NREL Image Gallery (https://images.nrel.gov/bp/#/).

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