NREL expands Golden campus

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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, better known as NREL, is continuing its advance towards innovative technology and energy through their latest addition to the campus, the Energy Systems Integration Facility or ESIF.

NREL gave a sneak peek at ESIF on Aug. 15, with an official ribbon-cutting event scheduled for later this fall.

The 182,500-square-foot facility houses 200 offices, 15 laboratories and several outdoor test areas. Construction of the ESIF building was completed two months ago. It is the largest addition to the NREL campus, costing $135 million.

The facility provides enough indoor space for hundreds of guest scientists and sub-contractors to test and research their work. “This unique, state-of-the-art facility provides technology developers and end-users with critical experimental, testing and integration capabilities,” said Carolyn Elam, manager at ESIF.

“We are able to test new technologies and systems at scale and under real-world operating conditions, greatly increasing the likelihood that these technologies and systems can be operated successfully in actual commercial applications,” Elam said.

The four main areas of research for the ESIF building are high-performance data and computing, fuel-cell development, electrical systems and thermal energy. The new labs offer scientists the chance to create fuel cells on site, and work with nanomaterials, liquids, gases and even plasma.

The main feature of the building is the mechanical room, which serves as the data center. NREL uses water to not only help melt snow on the walkways, but also to cool its servers.

“This is NREL’s first super computer on its campus,” NREL public affairs representative Jim Bosch said.

NREL’s high-performance data and computer center moves water in a continuous loop that fluctuates in temperature from the mechanical room to the data center located on the upper levels. According to Bosch, the water starts at 75 degrees. The servers raise the water temperature to 125 degrees, and the water then returns to the mechanical room where the excess energy is used to help heat the labs.

“It won’t be the largest computer in America, but it’ll be the most energy efficient,” Bosch said.

Tours of the campus are available upon request by calling 303-275-3000.