Who Is The Owner Of Nrel?

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a federally funded research and development center focused on advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Understanding who owns and oversees NREL is important because the laboratory plays a critical role in supporting the Department of Energy’s mission to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States through transformative science and technology solutions.

NREL History and Background

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was established in 1977 as the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) by President Jimmy Carter. It was founded in response to the oil crisis of 1973 with a mission to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. According to the NREL website, “The Laboratory’s rich history of renewable energy and energy efficiency research and innovation spans decades.”

In 1991, the lab began a photovoltaic manufacturing program called Photovoltaic Manufacturing Technology (PVMaT) which was very successful. This led to the expansion of the lab’s focus areas and a name change in 1991 to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to reflect its broader mission. Today, NREL’s key focus areas include energy efficiency, renewable electricity, and renewable fuels.

NREL Management and Oversight

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a federally funded research facility managed and operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC for the United States Department of Energy (DOE) [1]. NREL’s activities are defined by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and Office of Science [1].

The contract for managing NREL is administered by the DOE’s Golden Field Office. Funding for NREL comes from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Electricity, and Office of Science [2]. The largest share of funding comes from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

While NREL works closely with the DOE, it is overseen by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, a contractor that manages and operates the lab. The Alliance consists of four core partners: MRIGlobal, Battelle, Huntington Ingalls Industries – Technical Solutions, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Research Foundation [3].

This partnership and management structure allows NREL to leverage a diversity of capabilities from the private sector while remaining dedicated to the DOE’s renewable energy mission.

NREL Facilities and Locations

NREL has major facilities and offices located across the United States. The main NREL campus is located in Golden, Colorado and houses over 30 research laboratories and user facilities. Some key facilities at the Golden campus include:

  • The National Wind Technology Center, which houses wind turbines and research facilities
  • The Energy Systems Integration Facility, which allows testing and development of energy efficient technologies at grid-scale
  • The Energy Evaluation Laboratory, which provides analysis and testing for renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies

In addition to the Golden campus, NREL has several other major facilities:

  • The National Bioenergy Center located in Golden, Colorado focuses on biomass research
  • The National Center for Photovoltaics located in Golden, Colorado provides research and testing for solar PV technologies
  • The Flatirons Campus located in Boulder, Colorado houses research on transportation and hydrogen technologies
  • The Energy Systems Integration Facility located in Washington D.C. allows collaboration with policymakers and government agencies

NREL also has regional offices and field test sites located in more than a dozen states across America.

NREL Research Areas

nrel focuses critical r&d on areas like photovoltaics, bioenergy, hydrogen, fuel cells

NREL focuses on critical research and development areas related to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Some of the key research areas and programs at NREL include:

– Photovoltaics: NREL conducts R&D to improve solar cell technologies like crystalline silicon, thin films, and emerging photovoltaics. Key efforts include improving efficiency, reducing costs, and enhancing reliability (Chapter 1 Introduction).

– Bioenergy: NREL has research programs dedicated to developing and commercializing biomass conversion technologies for fuels, chemicals, materials and power. This includes biochemical and thermochemical conversion processes (a year in clean energy innovations).

– Hydrogen and Fuel Cells: NREL conducts R&D on hydrogen production and delivery, as well as fuel cell technologies for transportation, stationary, and portable power applications. The lab has world-class capabilities in this area (a year in clean energy innovations).

NREL Commercialization

NREL works closely with industry partners to help commercialize clean energy technologies developed at the lab. According to the NREL Commercialization Assistance Program, NREL provides expertise, capabilities, and equipment access to small technology companies to aid in the commercialization process. The lab has specific programs in place like the Commercialization Assistance Program to help startups bring NREL-developed technologies to market.

Partnerships with industry are a key part of NREL’s approach to moving innovations from the lab into the marketplace. The lab has partnered with companies of all sizes, from large corporations to small startups, across a wide range of clean energy technologies. These collaborative partnerships help accelerate the commercialization timeline and ensure that NREL’s research has real-world impact.

NREL Breakthroughs

NREL has made significant breakthroughs in renewable energy research and development over the years. According to this NREL report, in 2023 alone, NREL achieved several major innovations that advanced clean energy.

One key breakthrough was the development of a new solar cell design that boosted efficiency over 30%. As detailed in this NREL article, researchers engineered perovskite solar cells that combined high efficiency with durability, helping drive down the cost of solar power.

NREL scientists also made strides in energy storage, creating a sodium-ion battery that could enable lower cost, widespread energy storage on the grid. This battery uses cheaper and safer materials while matching the performance of lithium-ion batteries.

In wind energy, NREL designed advanced turbine blades that increase annual energy production by 5.5%, as covered in this NREL report. This improvement could boost output at U.S. wind farms by up to 35 billion kilowatt-hours per year.

NREL’s breakthroughs in renewable generation, storage, and efficiency are accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy future while catalyzing economic growth.

NREL Partnerships

NREL has pursued strategic partnerships with universities, national labs, and other organizations to maximize impact and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. According to NREL, collaborations allow the lab to “achieve market penetration, demonstrate systems, and validate performance.”

Key partnerships include working with the U.S. Department of Energy and universities like Colorado State University on bioenergy technologies for sustainable aviation. NREL also partners with other national labs, industry leaders, utilities, and international organizations. These connections allow NREL to combine its expertise in renewable energy and energy efficiency with partners’ capabilities.

Overall, NREL’s network of partnerships multiplies its impact, pools complementary resources, and accelerates the commercialization of clean energy innovations.

NREL Impact

NREL’s research and development efforts have had a significant impact on advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency. According to the NREL 2019 Annual Report, NREL’s innovations have led to 388 technologies commercialized from 2009 to 2019. These technologies range from solar cell materials and devices to building envelope materials, HVAC systems, vehicles, and more.

Some key examples of NREL’s broader impact include:

  • Developing record-breaking solar cell efficiencies, paving the way for more cost-effective solar photovoltaics.
  • Optimizing wind turbine designs for better performance and reliability.
  • Creating building energy modeling tools and standards adopted worldwide.
  • Demonstrating electric vehicle technologies that increase driving range and reduce charging time.
  • Inventing new catalysts and processes to produce renewable fuels and chemicals.

Looking ahead, NREL aims to accelerate the transition to a decarbonized energy system. Goals include further improvements in renewable energy and energy storage technologies, smarter energy management systems, and electrification of transportation. Through its ongoing research and public-private partnerships, NREL intends to provide the innovations needed for a sustainable energy future.


To summarize, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is nationally owned and managed. NREL is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC. This public-private partnership allows NREL to leverage both public and private resources to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

NREL’s ownership and oversight by the federal government allows it to focus on the long-term public interest in developing renewable energy solutions. At the same time, operation by a private entity allows NREL to be nimble and efficient. This unique structure has enabled NREL to have tremendous impact over decades of research.

Some of NREL’s key breakthroughs and contributions include advancements in solar photovoltaics, electric vehicles, wind turbine design, biofuels, hydrogen technologies, and more. The knowledge and technologies developed at NREL’s state-of-the-art research facilities have supported the commercialization of renewable energy nationwide.

In summary, NREL’s national ownership and oversight enables it to pursue its mission of advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency for the benefit of all Americans.

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