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John Grossenbacher, INL laboratory director, visits with Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson and other special guests. (Chris Morgan photos)

Energy leaders, public officials applaud opening of INL’s newest research center

By Sara Prentice and Rick Bolton, Communications & Governmental Affairs

INL’s new Energy Systems Laboratory earned the highest accolade possible from an internationally recognized green building program as a gold-certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) facility at the dedication ceremony April 2.

'It's a dedicated and amazing workforce we have here in this state, and I'm proud to represent them,' Rep. Simpson said. 'I appreciate all of you for the work you do.'

Guests and visitors from throughout the region, state and nation celebrated the dedication of the 91,000-square-foot ESL research facility at 750 University Boulevard on the Research and Education Campus in Idaho Falls.

Speakers described how ESL research will enhance the nation’s global competitiveness by advancing energy security through integration of clean energy systems, advancement of energy storage technologies, and biomass design and analysis.

“This facility will contribute significantly to efforts of integrating renewable energy onto America’s electrical grid, lessening the nation’s dependence on foreign-sourced fossil fuels,” said Steve Aumeier, Energy and Environment Science & Technology associate lab director. ESL adds important research capabilities that will contribute to the timely, material and efficient transformation of America’s energy systems and infrastructure, he said.

Collaboration among researchers at ESL and those in industry, academia and other national labs will leverage taxpayer funds to help solve the nation’s energy challenges across energy disciplines.

"To see the cooperation between the laboratories is important,” Rep. Mike Simpson said in reference to attendance at the event by Dan Arvizu, National Renewable Energy Laboratory director. “I'm not just a supporter of INL, but I am a supporter of our laboratory system across the country.”

John Grossenbacher, INL lab director, welcomes visitors to INL's newest LEED research facility, the Energy Systems Laboratory on University Boulevard.

INL Laboratory Director John Grossenbacher hosted the event, which included Rep. Simpson; Idaho Department of Commerce Director and LINE Commission Chairman Jeff Sayer; Idaho Falls Mayor Jared Fuhriman; Battelle Memorial Institute Executive Vice President Ron Townsend; Department of Energy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Renewable Energy Steve Chalk; Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis Miotla; NREL Director Dan Arvizu; the Battelle Board of Managers; the INL Leadership-Management Team and an audience of about 130 visitors and INL employees.

Chalk said he last visited and worked with INL employees about 20 years ago, and it was nice to see the campus build-out after a long absence. “It’s quite a stark contrast seeing the lab today,” he said. “It’s really impressive, as is the diversity of the core capabilities here at the lab.”

He said nuclear is central to the mission at INL and he appreciates the partnership between nuclear energy and bio-based research. He also commended interlab coordination among INL and other DOE labs, each of which has its core strengths.

Chalk mentioned the biomass work led by Richard Hess and the electric vehicle research led by Tim Murphy as examples of the strong core capabilities being developed at ESL. Chalk pointed out the important role INL plays in energy security through its work to combat cyberthreats, and he said research at the ESL will contribute to “a great leap forward” in modernizing the nation’s electric grid.

Both Chalk and Miotla told the audience they are impressed with the development of INL’s research campuses in Idaho Falls and at the desert Site in the past decade.

Steve Chalk, left, Department of Energy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Renewable Energy, visits with Battelle Memorial Institute Executive Vice President Ron Townsend. “It takes world-class facilities like this to attract world-class scientists,” Townsend said.

“This campus will have great success,” Miotla said. “You look around and see a brilliant campus today, one of the most beautiful in the DOE complex. I see an excited workforce with people willing to work hard and try new things.”

To cap off the ceremony, Aumeier accepted the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification for ESL from Kath Williams, LEED accredited professional. Only the top 20 percent of buildings in the world can achieve the distinction of being named a LEED building, Williams said.

“INL has been a fabulous member of the U.S. Green Building Council,” she said. “It’s been an honor to work on this complex project.” She recognized the efforts of “the hard-hat team of those who designed and built the building” and subcontractor Ormond Builders.

A voluntary, consensus-based, market­driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings, the LEED program recognizes implementation of practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

“People are the most important commodity, and with the right tools to do the job, they can be successful,” Miotla said. “I see people coming here from other places so the dream is now a reality.”

Steve Aumeier, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environment, accepts the LEED Certification medallion from Kath Williams, LEED accredited professional. Williams verified that the ESL attained LEED gold status.
Aumeier said building and moving into a facility like ESL took cooperation from an enormous number of people including architects, researchers, operations and construction staff, and administrative professionals.

He cited some of those “who had a large footprint” in the dream and vision for the building – starting with sketching the design to seeing the facility through construction and the dedication ceremony – Richard Hess, Tim Murphy, Richard Boardman, and the Communications and Governmental Affairs team.


Department of energy

DOE Office of Nuclear Energy
DOE-Idaho Office