Alliance Managing National Renewable Energy Lab Includes CU-Boulder As Major University Partner

Published: July 30, 2008

The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, selected yesterday by the U.S. Department of Energy as the next management contractor of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., includes the University of Colorado at Boulder as a major university partner.

Led by the Midwest Research Institute based in Kansas City and the Battelle Memorial Institute based in Columbus, Ohio, the Alliance signed a five-year contract to manage NREL worth roughly $340 million annually. The consortium includes five national and international collaborators, including three major university partners located in Colorado -- CU-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines and Colorado State University.

The primary mission of the management team will be to support DOE in the development and deployment of new, high-impact renewable energy technologies, said Alliance President and NREL Director Dan Arvizu. "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 technology," Arvizu said.

CU-Boulder Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson said the new Alliance partnership with NREL will result in a tremendous benefit to the people of Colorado. "CU-Boulder is one of the best training grounds in the world for the next generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs who will be working in the renewable and sustainable energy fields," Peterson said. "We are looking forward to working with the Alliance to help NREL solve the most pressing global energy challenges in the coming years."

According to CU-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Research Stein Sture, CU-Boulder's breadth of expertise in renewable and sustainable energy involves virtually every department and institute on campus, from biology, chemistry and engineering to the social sciences, political science, law and business. "This is a very exciting collaboration," said Sture. "The goals of the Alliance management team touch on just about everything we do here at CU-Boulder."

Sture said CU-Boulder's vast experience in fields like biofuels, solar energy, solar-to-hydrogen conversion, wind turbines and energy storage played a big factor in its selection as an Alliance partner. CU-Boulder also is part of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a consortium formed in 2006 that also involves NREL, Mines and CSU, said Sture.

The Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, or C2B2, a research center formed by the Colorado Collaboratory in 2007 with industry partners, is headquartered at CU-Boulder. Earlier this month, ConocoPhillips announced a new $5 million partnership with C2B2 to convert biomass to transportation fuels, pointing up CU-Boulder's high-caliber energy research efforts, Sture said.

"We already have 120 faculty who are now involved or who have a great interest in renewable energy," said Sture. "CU-Boulder has extensive contacts with industry as well as ongoing collaborations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Institute for Standards and Technology in this arena. We see this new collaborative management opportunity as a new beginning for great things to come."

The Alliance is expected to help NREL accelerate the achievement of national energy goals by increasing technology innovations and speeding the commercialization of such technologies to the consumer, said Sture. The Alliance also plans to create an extended "campus of the future" involving NREL and the three Colorado research universities, said Sture, who also is dean of the Graduate School at CU-Boulder.

The new Alliance partnership is expected to include a number of new joint faculty appointments between CU-Boulder and NREL, Sture said. In addition, the state of Colorado has committed to creating and funding at least 10 new "Governor's Chair" faculty positions in renewable energy between the three participating state universities, as well as a number of fellowships for graduate students.

The Alliance partnership also includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, said Sture. The Alliance will be governed by a 15-member board of directors composed of five executives each from Midwest Research Institute and Battelle and senior-level officials from the five collaborating universities.

Midwest and Battelle also teamed up to supervise the management of NREL after winning the previous contract in 1998, which ran for 10 years.