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Golden lab may have no carbon footprint

Catherine Tsai
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

GOLDEN ” Heeding President Bush’s order to cut energy use at federal agencies, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman broke ground Tuesday on a research support facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that is expected to have little or no carbon footprint.

He also announced two new projects to supply heat and renewable electricity to the facility. A renewable fuel heating plant will use biomass, such as wood chips from forest thinning, to cut NREL natural gas use up to 75 percent.

A new five-acre solar power system would provide power to the lab’s main campus. The projects are part of the department’s effort to meet an order by Bush for federal agencies to slash energy consumption per square foot by 30 percent.



The Energy Department also hopes to have at least 7.5 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2013.

“This is the answer to high oil prices,” Bodman said, pointing to NREL buildings behind him.

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“We have been 30 years digging ourselves into the hole we’re in, in terms of the problems of being overly addicted to foreign imported oil. It’s going to take a long time for us to work our way out of it,” Bodman said.

“We’re all suffering with these high oil prices…The only thing we can do is to try to develop alternatives.”

Bodman has pushed for the Energy Department, particularly NREL, to be a model for renewable energy use and energy efficiency.



Private companies will pay upfront costs for the new projects announced Tuesday.

SunEdison will finance, build, own and maintain the solar project, then sell power to the Energy Department. It also will sell renewable energy credits from the project to Xcel Energy, Bodman said.

Ameresco Energy Services Co. will build the heating plant and be repaid with proceeds from what NREL saves in natural-gas utility costs.

Both the heating plant and solar power system are expected to be completed in May 2008.

The research support facility will house NREL administrative staff who previously worked in leased buildings offsite. Its “green” design includes high insulation and makes use of daylight for lighting.

Bush has set a goal for solar power to be cost competitive without subsidies by 2015. Bodman said he thinks the goal will be met.


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