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NREL’s Impact on Colorado Economy Triples

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The presence of the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., is a $714-million annual boost to the state’s economy, according to data compiled in a soon-to-be-released analysis by the University of Colorado.

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That’s more than three times what it was just three years ago, when the economic impact was $192 million.

NREL is the nation’s primary research and development laboratory for the advancement of clean and renewable energy and for maximizing energy efficiency.

NREL’s full-time work force grew from 917 in 2007 to 2,300 today. That many people working at a lab induces more jobs to ripple through the state economy. In total, NREL’s presence means more than 5,500 jobs in Colorado. 

“NREL has had a positive, dynamic impact on Colorado’s economy,” said Dwayne Romero, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development. “In addition to more than tripling the economic impact to the state in the last three years, NREL has created almost 1,400 new jobs in Colorado and helped people get back to work. Colorado’s renewable energy industry is one of our key business sectors, and it is well-positioned for future growth because of the continuing success of NREL.”

Construction at NREL in fiscal year 2010 totaled $96 million, highlighted by the new 220,000-sq-ft Research Support

Facility, a building that showcases energy efficiency and renewable-energy technologies. Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act continues to accelerate construction of the laboratory’s campus, dramatically expanding NREL’s capacity for renewable energy and energy efficiency research, development and deployment.

“With NREL in our backyard, we are the envy of the nation when it comes to developing a dynamic, clean-tech industry cluster,” said Tom Clark, executive vice president with the Metro Denver Economic Development Council. “NREL is a catalyst for creating technologies and spinning off new entrepreneurial endeavors.”

NREL has helped wind and solar energy, biomass and alternative fuels gain traction in the marketplace, helping to vault Colorado into sixth place nationally in the total value of clean-energy jobs. Between 1998 and 2007, clean-energy jobs in Colorado grew by 18.2%—more than double the 8.2% growth in all jobs in the state. As of the end of 2009, Colorado had 17,000 clean-energy jobs.

As of August 2010, NREL had 329 contracts with Colorado companies totaling $414 million. NREL had cooperative research and development agreements with 23 Colorado companies, and technical service agreements with 24 Colorado firms as of summer 2010.

The Photovoltaic Incubator Program funded by the DOE and managed by NREL helps solar companies get their technologies ready for full-scale production.

Abound Solar Manufacturing  LLC of Longmont, with the help of the PV Incubator program, has developed a method to make cadmium telluride solar cell modules much faster than anyone else in the industry. It has grown its workforce from 33 to 330 employees. Recently, it received more than $400 million in loan guarantees.

NREL sponsors the annual Industry Growth Forum to connect clean-technology companies to investors. Colorado companies that have presented at the forum have raised a total of $3.4 billion in funding. The companies are headquartered in Golden, Thornton, Denver, Littleton, Fort Collins and Boulder, among other cities.

The examination of NREL’s economic impact on Colorado by the Business Research Division of the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business used the Insight Colorado Model to quantify the economic and fiscal impacts of NREL. Economic benefits refer to dollars generated and distributed throughout the economy due to the existence of an establishment.

NREL is the U.S. Dept. of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable-energy and energy-efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC.

 

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