National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) focuses on creative answers to today's energy challenges. From breakthroughs in fundamental science to new clean technologies to integrated energy systems that power our lives, NREL researchers are transforming the way the nation and the world use energy.

For a general overview of NREL, including its core capabilities, visit their Solution Center profile or their website. Learn more about individual user facilities below.

Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF)

The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) houses an unparalleled collection of state-of-the-art capabilities to study clean energy technologies at all scales—from developing and validating individual appliances or components to running megawatt-sized grid simulations.

The ESIF is the nation’s first research facility that can conduct megawatt-scale research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) of the components and systems needed to seamlessly integrate advanced energy technologies into an evolving grid infrastructure. Through a combination of RD&D tools and approaches, the ESIF helps researchers, entrepreneurs, utilities, and other stakeholders identify and resolve the technical, operational, and financial risks of large-scale integration of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

The ESIF is also home to Eagle—the largest high performance computer (HPC) in the world exclusively dedicated to advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Eagle delivers 8 petaflops of computational power that can be used for EERE-funded programs or mission-related work, or for collaborative projects with a growing user community. Designated as an official U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) user facility, ESIF’s scientific capabilities—researchers, instruments and facilities—are available for use by the global research community. Through its user access program, the ESIF allows researchers access to its premier laboratories in support of research and development that aims to optimize our entire energy system at full power.

Requests for access to the ESIF are accepted on an ongoing basis, depending on availability. Various types of solicitations for proposals are also posted throughout the year.

For more information please see NREL's Technology Partnership Agreements page, or contact with any questions.

Andrew Hudgins

Fuel Combustion Laboratory

NREL's Fuel Combustion Laboratory at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) focuses on characterizing fuels at the molecular level. This information can then be used to understand and predict a fuel's effect on engine performance and emissions. By understanding the effects of fuel chemistry on ignition, as well as the potential emissions impacts, we can develop fuels that enable more efficient engine designs, using both today's technology and future advanced combustion concepts.

For more information, please visit the Fuel Combustion Laboratory website or contact:

Brad Zigler

High-Flux Solar Furnace (HFSF)

The 10-kilowatt High-Flux Solar Furnace (HFSF) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been in operation since 1990 and consists of a tracking heliostat and 25 hexagonal, slightly concave mirrors to concentrate solar radiation. The solar furnace can quickly generate up to 1,800 °C over a 1-cm2 area—and up to 3,000 °C with specialized secondary optics to generate concentrations greater than 20,000 suns. Flux levels and distributions can also be tailored to the needs of a particular research activity.

The operational characteristics and size of the facility make it ideal for testing over a wide range of technologies with a diverse set of experimental requirements:

  • The high-heating rates create the perfect tool for testing high-temperature materials, coatings on metals and ceramics, and other materials-related applications. The power generated can be used to evaluate many components—such as receivers, collectors, and reflector materials—used in concentrating solar power systems.
  • The facility can provide a platform for testing prototype advanced converters and chemical reactors for solar-electric and solar-chemistry applications. Researchers can also use the HFSF to evaluate and develop state-of-the-art measurement systems for the extreme solar environment.
  • The HFSF facility can determine secondary concentrator requirements and configuration by using SolTrace modeling. If modeling shows a requirement for a special secondary concentrator, NREL can be instrumental in designing and integrating this concentrator into the HFSF test area. For more information on SolTrace modeling, contact Tim Wendelin.
  • The HFSF facility also includes an ultra-accelerated weathering system (UAWS) for testing of outdoor materials. UAWS provides up to 100× ultraviolet concentration to accelerate aging of materials used outdoors. For more information on UAWS, contact Robert Tirawat.

For more information, please visit the HFSF website or contact:

Judy Netter

Tim Wendelin

Robert Tirawat

Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility (IBRF)

NREL's Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility (IBRF) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) enables researchers and industry partners to develop, test, evaluate, and demonstrate processes and technologies for the production of bio-based products and fuels.

The IBRF is designed with the following capabilities:

  • Versatility in handling a wide range of biomass feedstocks and pretreatment processes;
  • Ability to accommodate and incorporate equipment from partners or third-parties into end-to-end process integration and evaluation tests;
  • High-quality process performance data generation supported by automated data acquisition and process control systems along with world-class chemical analysis;
  • Expertise to integrate multiple technologies for pilot-scale testing and process validation;
  • Experience developing intellectual property and helping industrial partners commercialize technologies.

The IBRF is home to the following testing facilities:

  • The 27,000-ft2, high-bay biochemical conversion pilot plant, which accommodates bench-to-pilot-scale processes for converting cellulosic biomass into a variety of fuels and chemicals at process throughputs of up to one ton of dry biomass per day;
  • The compositional analysis labs, which in addition to producing comprehensive biomass analysis results and standard biomass laboratory procedures, can also customize analytical methods for new sample types;
  • And the fuel testing laboratories, where process performance data generated in the IBRF can be incorporated into techno-economic and life-cycle analysis models to estimate market feasibility, cost sensitivities, and environmental sustainability attributes of commercial-scale production.

For more information, please visit the IBRF website or contact:

Robert Baldwin
Partnership and Business Development

Outdoor Test Facility (OTF)

Outdoor Test Facility (OTF) researchers in the National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) study and evaluate advanced or emerging photovoltaic (PV) technologies under simulated, accelerated indoor and outdoor, and prevailing outdoor conditions. One of the major roles of researchers at the OTF is to work with industry to develop uniform and consensus standards and codes for testing PV devices. Researchers also calibrate primary reference cells for in-house use and for use by other national laboratories, calibration and testing labs, and PV manufacturers.

The OTF uses an assortment of indoor equipment to test modules and systems under simulated and accelerated conditions, as well as to perform module packaging R&D. Equipment is housed in several laboratories in buildings across NREL, including the OTF, Field Test Laboratory Building (FTLB), and the Solar Energy Research Facility (SERF).

Nearly 40 test beds surround the OTF laboratory building. These test beds allow researchers to characterize the electrical output performance of modules under outdoor conditions, test the long-term performance and stability of PV modules and systems under standard and accelerated outdoor conditions, and measure the performance of hybrid systems. Systems used for PV measurement include the Standard Outdoor Module Characterization, Long-Term Module Outdoor Performance and Stability, and Grid-Tied PV Systems Testing.

For more information, please visit the OTF website or contact:

Wayne Bottom
Facility Manager

Renewable Fuels and Lubricants Laboratory (ReFUEL)

The Renewable Fuels and Lubricants (ReFUEL) Laboratory at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a state-of-the-art research and testing facility for advanced fuels and vehicles. Research and development focuses on overcoming barriers to the increased use of renewable diesel and other nonpetroleum-based fuels, such as biodiesel and synthetic diesel derived from biomass.

The ReFUEL Laboratory features a heavy-duty chassis dynamometer for vehicle performance and emissions research, two engine dynamometer test cells for advanced fuels research, and precise emissions analysis equipment. As a complement to these capabilities, detailed studies of fuel properties, with a focus on ignition characteristics, are performed at NREL’s Fuel Chemistry Laboratory. Because the ReFUEL Laboratory is located in Denver, Colorado, it offers the additional capability of testing emissions and vehicle performance at high altitude. It also features an altitude simulation system to mimic results found at lower altitudes, including sea level.

The ReFUEL Laboratory is one of the few facilities in the United States with a chassis dynamometer that operates with laboratory-grade emissions analysis equipment. The dynamometer is supported by 72 data acquisition channels along with fuel metering and combustion analysis subsystems. It can test the performance and emissions of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles—from small trucks and delivery vans to full-size buses and Class 8 tractors.

For more information, please visit the ReFUEL website or contact:

Jonathan Burton

Thermal and Catalytic Process Development Unit (TCPDU)

The Thermal and Catalytic Process Development Unit (TCPDU) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has state-of-the-art equipment for thermochemical process development and testing, ranging from catalyst and feedstock characterizations to bench-scale reactors to pilot plants.

To collaborate on research and development efforts, use the TCPDU equipment to test your materials and processes, or for more general information, please visit the TCPDU website or contact:

Robert Baldwin

Molly Hames

Thermal Test Facility (TTF)

The Thermal Test Facility (TTF) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) focuses on energy management of the built environment. The TTF is a flexible multipurpose laboratory that enables detailed evaluation and development of building and thermal energy systems. Through analysis of efficient heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) strategies, automated home energy management, and energy storage systems, scientists uncover solutions for cost-effectively reducing the nation’s electric demand and energy consumption. TTF researchers also study ways to improve the health and durability of buildings, effectively using available solar resources, and improving the performance of electric vehicle energy storage components and systems. The TTF is home to the following laboratories:

  • The Advanced HVAC Laboratory enables rapid, accurate and robust measurement of space conditioning equipment, from bath fan size up to 10-tons;
  • The Automated Home Energy Management Laboratory provides flexible test bed for device, whole-house, and grid-level strategies;
  • The Hot Water Systems Laboratory provides gas, electric, and solar hot water evaluation;
  • The Energy Storage Laboratory is home to the world’s most accurate battery calorimeters of their kind, thermal imaging, battery testers, and environmental chambers, with controlled duty cycling at every step.

For more information, please visit the TTF website or contact:

Lisa Kenny