The Denver recently reported the NREL was going to lay off 10 percent of its employees. It took about two light seconds for a popular Washington D.C. news site to pronounce the layoff a "scandal," because NREL had taken federal stimulus money. That is silly. NREL, of course, is where the Department of Energy tests and develops new materials and techniques for solar, wind and other kinds of energy.

Don't Forget: NREL are the Good Guys. And so is solar energy.

Ray Burgess | Solar Power Technologies

Good ideas for alternative energy have something for everyone. For conservatives and others who do not like depending on our enemies for energy, more and better wind and solar research should be a no brainer.

For liberals and others who talk about global catastrophe from climate change, more and better wind and solar research is also something they take as a given.

Yet you would never know that from reading the headlines. Not Solyndra. I’m talking about the recent story about the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

The Denver recently reported the NREL was going to lay off 10 percent of its employees. It took about two light seconds for a popular Washington D.C. news site to pronounce the layoff a “scandal,” because NREL had taken federal stimulus money.

That is silly.

NREL, of course, is where the Department of Energy tests and develops new materials and techniques for solar, wind and other kinds of energy. 

The NREL is the first and best hope for some research critical to the energy future of this country. . It hires people. It fires people. It gets contracts. Contracts expire and they look for more.

This is a scandal?

Hardly.

The big scandal is how easy we forget the importance of alternative energy and NREL’s role in it.

NREL are the good guys. They are the ones setting standards, measuring output, and generally keeping everyone honest.

NREL are the honest brokers of the renewable energy world. They do good work that people in the business depend on.

Example: I just used an NREL study the other day that talked about solar panels, and how if a leave or shadow or a bird dropping or anything else obstructs the sun to a solar array, it will destroy production in an area 36 times larger than the obstruction.

Very important to know. It helps us decide on the importance and frequency and type of maintenance.

Today they are in the forefront of other research that measures output and reliability of solar panels from China. Also very important, because it turns out the quality can be poor, but not many people know about it after they are installed.

And we know that from a NREL report that provides a “non-comprehensive” list of 63 ways a solar panel can go bad.

That is of particular interest to my company since we are industry leaders in solar array monitoring. And many people with solar panels do not really know what is happening with them once they are installed.

This kind of work will improve the capacity of larger solar installations. A critical component of our energy independent, carbon-free, future.

So whether you a conservative who worries about dependence on foreign oil, or a liberal concerned about climate change, alternative energy has urgency and significance for everyone.

Everyone knows that. I just don’t know why it is so easy to forget.


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