Renewable Research Enlivens NREL Presentation

Dr. Martin Keller, director of the National Renewable Energy Lab, presented to a full room at CREA’s 2017 Energy Innovations Summit October 30.

NREL is all about innovation. It has made advances in generating solar, wind, bio energy, as well as in transportation and grid integration. It has received 147 U.S. patents since 2011, and has 749 active partnerships with industry, universities and local governments.

Dr. Keller noted that renewables are the new normal in the United States. The costs for using renewables are falling and will continue to fall, and yet the US is barely scratching the surface for renewable resources.

According to Dr. Keller, NREL research shows that 80 percent of the electricity the U.S. will need in 2050 can be sourced from renewable technologies. Solar research shows that the cost of solar has gone down 96 percent and grown by more than 50 percent each of the past five years. It makes up 1 percent of all U.S. power generation. NREL wind research shows that innovations have driven down the cost of wind as much as 98 percent between 2009 and 2016. Wind supplies 6.2 percent of U.S. electricity.

Dr. Keller did add that the increase in the diversity of renewables on the grid does require storage options since storage can make renewables dispatchable. And he said that in our modern energy systems, the grid can handle more renewable generation than originally thought. Electric markets were not originally designed for variable renewables, but they can be adapted, he said.

“The old system is going through a tremendous change,” he said, and the challenge is how to develop this new model. He explained his grid modernization vision, noting that the grid of the future must be reliable, resilient, secure, affordable, flexible and sustainable.