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Clean Diesel Tribal Grants

2018 Tribal Request for Proposals

EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality is soliciting proposals nationwide for Tribal projects that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions and diesel emissions exposure, particularly from fleets located in areas designated as having poor air quality. EPA anticipates $2 million will be awarded to eligible Tribal applicants.

Proposals must be received by Thursday, September 6, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) in order to be considered for funding. Proposal packages must be submitted electronically to EPA through www.grants.gov.

Priority - Priority is given to projects that achieve significant reduction in diesel emissions and exposure in areas designated as having poor air quality, and in areas receiving a disproportionate quantity of air pollution from diesel fleets. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Tribal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (PDF) (6 pp, 191 K, June 5, 2018) will be updated weekly during the application period. Please e-mail your questions to cleandiesel@epa.gov and type "Tribal RFP Question" in the subject line. The deadline for submitting questions via email is Friday, August 24, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. ET. The estimated final posting of the FAQ document will be Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. ET. All questions and answers, including those from all information sessions, will be added to this document.

Eligible Applicants

Under this solicitation, only tribal governments (or intertribal consortiums) or Alaskan native villages, which have jurisdiction over transportation or air quality, are eligible to apply for Tribal Clean Diesel grants.

Eligible Use of Funding

Eligible diesel vehicles, engines and equipment may include:

  • School buses
  • Class 5 – Class 8 heavy-duty highway vehicles
  • Locomotive engines
  • Marine engines
  • Nonroad engines, equipment or vehicles used in construction, handling of cargo (including at ports or airports), agriculture, mining or energy production (including stationary generators and pumps).

Grant funds may be used for clean diesel projects including:

Funds awarded under this program cannot be used to fund emissions reductions mandated under federal law. Equipment used for testing emissions or fueling infrastructure is not eligible for funding.

Please refer to the full RFP for specific information about this competition.

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Plug-in Vehicles Consumed Nearly Two Terawatt-hours of Electricity in 2017

Fact of the Week #1030

The amount of electricity consumed by plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) has increased nearly 100 times from 0.02 terawatt-hours in 2011 to 1.94 terawatt-hours in 2017. The share of electricity consumption from all-electric (BEV) increased compared to the electricity consumption from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). In 2017, BEVs accounted for about 57% of all PEV electricity consumption while PHEVs accounted for the remaining 43%.

 

Total electricity consumption by plug-in electric vehicles from 2010 to 2017

Source: Argonne National Laboratory, Impacts of Electrification of Light-Duty Vehicles in the United States, 2010-2017, ANL/ESD-18/1, January 2018.

Fact #1030 Dataset

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Louisiana Publishes Volkswagen Mitigation Plan

Louisiana's Mitigation plan has been published and is now open for comment. To view the plan and for more information, visit the LDEQ's Volkswagen web page. For more information or to comment on the state's plan, please email vwsettlement@la.gov.

Alert: LDEQ has extended the comment period on their proposed Mitigation Plan until June 22, 2018. Please send your comments to vwsettlement@la.gov

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) was designated the lead agency (beneficiary) by the Office of Gov. John Bel Edwards. Three Louisiana state agencies were designated to receive equal shares of the fund: LDEQ, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LDOTD). These agencies were tasked to allocate the VW Mitigation Trust funds. The agencies, with public input, are proposing to pool their funds to target replacement of eligible diesel school buses. The bus replacement program will offer partial funding primarily to school districts to replace their buses with electric, alternative fuel, or high-efficiency diesel vehicles. LDOTD is proposing to use its share of the funds to replace eligible diesel vehicles and heavy equipment with new, less polluting engines.

The plan gives first consideration "to replacement or repowering of school buses owned or used by Louisiana school districts with newer, cleaner vehicles, and/or new cleaner burning engines". These funds will not be used for fleet expansion. The goal is to get older, polluting vehicles off the road and to replace them with new, cleaner options. The amount of funding that the state is proposing for school bus replacements are as follows:

  1. 25% matching funds will be given for the replacement or repowering of eligible buses with newer cleaner burning diesel.
  2. 50% matching funds will be given for the replacement of eligible buses with eligible alternate fuels powered buses, including Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), propane, etc.

The plan states specifically:

The Louisiana DOTD owns and operates more than 5,500 pieces of equipment with an estimated replacement cost of more than $200 million. Approximately 60% of the equipment is currently beyond its estimated ideal replacement cycle established by the DOTD. The DOTD’ s main goal is to reduce overall emissions by replacing some of its fleet with new diesel technology equipment with use of the available funds, resulting in improved operational efficiency of its fleet with increased reliability and reduced downtime of equipment.

By concentrating first on school buses, Louisiana will provide significant emission reduction both for NOX and Toxic Air Pollutants (TAPs). Since these emissions occur at or near ground level, there is relatively little dispersion with maximum impact on the passengers and school children. Addressing school buses first provides the greatest improvement in local air quality for one of the most sensitive populations.

Funding for EVSE

The plan also includes language which allows the state to utilize "up to 15% of its allocation of Mitigation Trust funds on the costs necessary for, and directly connected to, the acquisition, installation, operation and maintenance of new, light duty, zero emission vehicle supply equipment for projects..." Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is the only type of fueling infrastructure allowed under the VW Settlement.

Assistance for School Districts

School Districts wishing to take advantage of this funding should bookmark the state's VW webpage and watch for any requests for proposal (RFP) by the state. Louisiana Clean Fuels is working closely with the LDEQ on outreach for the state's bus replacement program. If your school district would like to learn more about the different fueling options available under the plan or would like assistance with their proposals to the state, please email Ann Vail at Louisiana Clean Fuels ann@louisianacleanfuels.org.

To view the plan and for more information, visit the LDEQ's Volkswagen web page. For more information or to comment on the state's plan, please email vwsettlement@la.gov.

Helpful Links

Appendix D-2 which lists eligible mitigation actions and expenditures under the program (which kind of vehicles can be replaced).

Settlement timeline graphic

Details of Louisiana’s Mitigation Plan

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Alternative Fueling Station Locator Overhaul Boasts Improved User Interface

A screenshot showing the updated Station Locator tool interface, featuring a map of the U.S. with multiple colored circles representing various types of alternative fueling station locations.

It’s official—The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) Station Locator has undergone a major makeover. Constant improvement is at the site’s core, which is why the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technology Office is always striving to make the AFDC’s tools easier to use and the data more accessible. The updated Station Locator offers new features and an improved user interface built on the same reliable, comprehensive, and fuel-neutral data that our partners have come to trust.

Some of the notable new features include a sleek look and feel, simplifying the user experience, as well as a bigger map populated with consistent circle icons for each station location and updated colors representing each fuel type. Users will also notice a larger and more detailed view of specific station information.

On the Station Locator home page, there are now two tabs at the top of the map: Find Public Stations and Analyze and Download Data.

The Find Public Stations tab allows users to search for public stations at a specific location, with the option to search for all fuels or just one. The total number of stations that fit the search criteria can be found in the upper right.

The search defaults to public stations and the following fuel-specific criteria:

  • Level 2 and DC fast charging electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE)
  • Propane stations with vehicle-specific fueling services (i.e., “primary” stations)
  • Hydrogen stations with full public access (i.e., “retail” stations)

The Map a Route feature, also available on the Find Public Station tab, shows specified fuel types available along a route between two locations. It also displays search results on the right, sorted by distance from the search location.

The Analyze and Download Data tab allows users to refine their search using filters, broken out into three categories: Location, Fuel, and Station.

To search by Location, users can enter a state or a specific address and limit results within a certain mile radius. To search by Fuel, users can filter by a single fuel or multiple fuel types, and conduct fuel-specific searches, including the following:

  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): fill type, vehicle accessibility, and fill pressure
  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG): vehicle accessibility
  • EVSE: charging levels, connector types, and networks
  • Ethanol (E85): stations that also offer mid-level ethanol blends
  • Propane: stations with limited vehicle-specific fueling capabilities (i.e., “secondary” stations)
  • Hydrogen: stations with limited public access (i.e., “nonretail” stations)

The Station options allow users to filter for public and/or private stations, planned stations, and by owner type and payment methods. All results display on the right, including counts, filters, and options to download the results or see the results on a map.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) collects and confirms alternative fueling station data through a number of industry sources. To submit a new station for inclusion in the Station Locator, visit the online webform. For multiple station additions or updates, email technicalresponse@icf.com.

The new Station Locator still includes an embed functionality so users can include the tool within their own websites. If you already have the Station Locator embedded on your website, replacing the code with the new version of the embed code is recommended.

Continue to monitor the U.S. Station Locator for new features, including an alternative fuel corridor planning tool.

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LCF Green Fleets Certification Program

The Louisiana Clean Fuels (LCF) Green Fleets Program is designed to assist fleets in deploying solutions that improve the economic and environmental performance of vehicle operations. Through the LCF Green Fleets program, Louisiana Clean Fuels conducts emissions analysis and quantification of on-road vehicles for fleets throughout the state of Louisiana.

Benefits of Being an LCF Green Fleet:

  • Educational opportunities with workshops, trainings, and more.
  • Recognition and certification for environmental fleet leaders.
  • Branding and promotional tools for fleet achievement.
  • Informational resources on technology options and available incentives.
  • Connections with vendors offering advanced fuel and vehicle technologies, equipment, conversion systems, and more.
  • Funding assistance with grant opportunities (Better data makes a better application!) 

Eligible Vehicle Types:

All on road fleet vehicles are eligible for this program, including buses, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks, locomotives, construction equipment and cargo handling vehicles are eligible. Light-duty commercial and passenger vehicles also are eligible. Currently, the program does not include vehicles involved in agricultural operations, mining, or marine vessels.

 

Required Fleet / Vehicle Data:

All eligible fleets interested in LCF Green Fleet designation must submit specific baseline data, as well as data on specific efficiency and alternative fuel technologies deployed in their fleet operations.  To be considered for the recognition in the program, fleets must provide the following data:


More details on the specific data required is listed on the LCF Green Fleets Enrollment Data Form. Form available upon request by emailing Tyler Herrmann at tyler@louisianacleanfuels.org.

Analysis & Scoring Methodology

To quantify fleet emissions, LCF’s Green Fleets program utilizes its own variation of the U.S. Department of Energy and Argonne National Laboratory’s Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET) Tool.  The AFLEET-based model is used to subtract the “actual” emissions of the candidate fleet’s conventional- and alternative-fuel fleet from the “expected” emissions the candidate’s fleet if it were only comprised of conventional-fuel vehicles to calculate net emissions savings.  The emissions savings are then put onto the logarithmic point scale (see chart below). 

The emissions analyzed by LCF’s Green Fleets include carbon dioxide (CO2), greenhouse gases (GHG), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5).  Each of these emissions contributes to the overall scoring of the fleet. Additional points are awarded by percentage of fleet miles driven on alternative fuels (one point per percentage point) and by percentage of petroleum reduced (one point per percent reduced). Point values for emissions reductions are detailed below:

Note: All emissions measured in lbs.

Designation Criteria:

We will add points from all factors above that account for reductions in the emissions of concern and total petroleum reduction. This point total will be used to determine whether a fleet qualifies for designation as an LCF Green Fleet and what level of designation has been earned.

One Star – at least 20 total points

Two Star – at least 40 total points

Three Stars – at least 70 total points

Four Star – at least 110 total points

Five Stars – at least 160 total points

Recognition Program:

Louisiana Clean Fuels will recognize its annual class of LCF Green Fleets on its website and through press releases. Once certified, your organization will receive a report detailing your emissions reductions and scoring under the program along with permission to use the green fleets certification seal for your certification level on any and all of your organization’s publications for a period of one year.

Enrollment:

Enrollment for the LCF Clean Fuels 2018 Green Fleets will open on February 1, 2018 and close on May 31, 2018. There will be an informational webinar coming soon to help fleets with the enrollment form and certification process. Only fleets that operate in the Louisiana Clean Fuels Territory may apply. Please check to see if your fleet is in our coverage area.

Enrollment in LCF Green Fleets is simple, free and doesn’t obligate you to make any changes to how you run your fleets…though we hope you will take the opportunity to leverage some of our services to become certified.

Get started: Complete this short survey or email tyler@louisianacleanfuels.org.

About Louisiana Clean Fuels:

LCF is a US Department of Energy Clean Cities Coalition, supported by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and member organizations. By providing you with objective data, technical resources and the right connections, we can help your fleet find reliable alternative fuel vehicles that will stabilize or lower your fuel cost.

The mission of Louisiana Clean Fuels, Inc. is to advance the nation’s environmental, economic and energy security by supporting local actions to diversify transportation fuel options. 

As a member of the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program, LCF strives to achieve its goals by employing a variety of strategies which include: promoting and implementing the use of alternative fuel vehicles, fuel blends, increased fuel economy, hybrid vehicles, and idle reduction technologies.

 

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Funding & Training Opportunities

This blog post summarizes a wide variety of current funding and training opportunities that may relate to your local efforts to improve air quality. Please take a look and take advantage of the opportunities that can help you with your work!

Environmental Protection Agency

Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) National Grants

EPA anticipates offering the next RFP solicitation in March 2018. Information will be provided here: https://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/clean-diesel-national-grants

Volkswagen Mitigation Trust

The U.S. government and VW resolved allegations that VW violated the Clean Air Act by selling approximately 590,000 vehicles equipped with defeat devices.  As part of this settlement, VW is required to provide approximately $2.7 billion for the 2.0 liter violating vehicles and $225 million for the 3.0 liter violating vehicles into an Environmental Mitigation Trust to fully remediate the amount of excess NOx from the illegal vehicles.

  •        Eligible Mitigation Actions focus on reducing NOx from older, dirtier diesel engines, vehicles, equipment, and vessels. Appendix D-2 to the consent decree details the Eligible Mitigation Actions which include projects to repower or replace:
    • Class 8 local freight and port drayage trucks
    • Class 4-8 school bus, shuttle bus, or transit bus
    • Freight switchers
    • Ferries/tugs
    • Class 4-7 local freight trucks
    • Airport ground support equipment
    • Forklifts and port cargo handling equipment, or
    • Install light duty ZEV supply equipment, or
    • Install shore-side system for ocean going vessel shore power

See https://www.epa.gov/vw or https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/volkswagen-clean-air-act-civil-settlement#violations for more information about the violations and settlement.

Information on the Louisiana VW Settlement here. 

Environmental Education Local Grants Program

This grants program supports locally-focused projects that design, demonstrate, and/or disseminate environmental education practices, methods, or techniques that will serve to increase environmental and conservation literacy and encourage behavior that will benefit the environment. In addition to other environmental topics (including air quality), the 2018 program includes support for projects that reflect the intersection of environmental issues with agricultural best practices, conservation of natural resources, food waste management, and natural disaster preparedness (such as green infrastructure).

Funding Amount: Up to $3 Milllion
Application Deadline:March 15, 2018

More information for Louisiana opportunities can be found here

Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Louisiana Conservation Innovation Grants

This program will stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies in conjunction with agricultural production; certain projects that may be funded by the program have the potential to improve air quality/reduce emissions. The program generally funds pilot projects, field demonstrations, and on-farm conservation research. Applications are accepted from state or local governments, tribes, governmental organizations and individuals. 

Funding Amount: $150,000 (Up to $75,000 in Individual Awards)
Application Deadline: April 8, 2018

More information here

Patagonia

Environmental Grants

This grant opportunity is available to small activist organizations working to protect the environment. Projects must be action-oriented, build public involvement and support, be strategic, focus on root causes, accomplish specific goals and objectives. One proposal per group will be accepted each fiscal year (May 1-April 30).

Funding Amount: $5,000 to $20,000
Application Deadline: April 30, 2018

More information here

Southeast Louisiana Clean Fuel Partnership

Clean Fuel Transition Fund for Public Fleets (includes idling reduction)

Funding is available for 80% of the cost to convert an existing vehicle to an alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) including natural gas, propane, electric, or hybrid electric; 80% of the incremental cost difference when purchasing a new AFV; and 80% of the cost of idle reduction technologies to add to existing or new AFVs.  Public fleets in Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, and St. Charles Parishes are eligible.

Funding Amount: $909,200
Application Deadline: Ongoing

More information here. 

Louisiana Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commision

Commercial Propane Mower & Automobile Incentives

Propane mower incentives are available to private or public commercial mowing fleets in Louisiana. New dedicated liquified petroleum gas (LPG) mowers and conversions of existing mowers are eligible for $1,500 per vehicle (new), up to $800 per conversion, and up to 4 awards and $5,000 per year per entity.

Funding Amount: $800 to $5,000
Application Deadline: Ongoing

More information here. 

 

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Fact of the Week #1017

FOTW# 1017, February 19: Non-Hybrid Stop-Start Systems Doubled for Light Trucks from 2016 to 2017

Stop-start systems have been used on hybrid vehicles since hybrids were first introduced almost 20 years ago. In recent years, manufacturers have begun installing stop-start systems in non-hybrid vehicles as well. A vehicle equipped with stop-start will shut down the engine when the vehicle is stopped and start the engine when the brake pedal is released to reduce engine idle time. This is particularly effective in city driving where brief but frequent stops are required due to traffic lights and congestion. The market penetration of non-hybrid stop-start systems on cars grew from 9.1% in 2016 to 14.2% in 2017 while light trucks nearly doubled, reaching 20.3% in 2017. Engines with stop-start technology have different architecture to prevent premature wear of engine components, including the starter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, stop-start systems improve fuel economy by about 4-5%.

Non-Hybrid Stop-Start Technology Market Share for Cars and Light Trucks from 2012 to 2017

* Data for 2017 are preliminary, based on projected production data from the automakers.

Note: Includes only non-hybrid stop-start technology. The definition of cars and light trucks is the same definition as in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy rulemaking. Thus, the car category includes cars, station wagons, and small 2-wheel drive sport utility vehicles (SUV). The light truck category includes pickups, vans, minivans, 4-wheel drive SUV, and large SUV.

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 Through 2017, EPA-420-R-18-001, January 2018.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Vehicle Guide, Gasoline and Diesel Advanced Technology Vehicles website, accessed January 20, 2018.

Fact #1017 Dataset

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Conrad LNG Announces First LNG Bunkering Barge Built in North America

 

 courtesy of GTTNA

LCF Member, Conrad LNG is pleased to announce that the Clean Jacksonville – the first LNG bunkering barge ever built in North America – will be delivered to TOTE Maritime in spring of this year. As the first of its kind, this 2,200m3 capacity LNG barge will operate out of the Port of Jacksonville, Florida, supplying TOTE’s two Marlin-class gas-powered container vessels currently running on clean burning natural gas on its Puerto Rican trade route. Conrad was fortunate to work with multiple esteemed industry leaders on this historic endeavor - including TOTE Maritime, Clean Marine Energy (CME), GTT NA, and Bristol Harbor Group.  For more information on the barge project, please visit:

For questions or inquiries, please contact Beau Berthelot at bjberthelot@conradindustries.com.

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Platooning Trucks to Cut Cost and Improve Efficiency

At first glance, platooning doesn’t look like much – just a few tractor-trailers driving down the highway a bit closer together than we’re used to. But, what is actually happening is much more complex and presents the opportunity for significant safety, energy efficiency, and cost benefits. Early studies have shown that 65% of current long-haul truck miles could potentially be platooned, reducing total truck fuel consumption by 4%.

 

 Photo Credit: Department of Transportation

What is Platooning?

So, what is truck platooning? Platooning involves the use of vehicle-to-vehicle communications and sensors, such as cameras and radar, to virtually connect two or more trucks together in a convoy. The virtual link enables all of the vehicles in the platoon to communicate with each other, allowing them to automatically accelerate together, brake together, and enables them to follow each other at a closer distance than is typically possible with unlinked trucks.

The technology detects and reacts to stopped or slow vehicles ahead of the platoon and adjusts as needed when a vehicle cuts in between the trucks in the platoon. With current platooning technology, each truck in the platoon has a human driver responsible for steering and taking over the speed and braking as needed. The driver of the first truck leads the platoon and navigates the route. As the technology improves, there may only be the need for a lead driver, or no human drivers at all.

Why do it?

Truck platooning could provide many benefits. When implemented, platooning can improve safety, increase energy efficiency, and reduce costs.

Truck platooning technology includes automatic braking. The automatic brakes are able to react much faster than a human, improving safety and reducing the likelihood of collisions. Truck platoons also take up less space on the road, and experience fewer short or sudden acceleration and braking events, than unlinked trucks. The trucks travelling closer together at smoother speeds improves traffic flow and boosts the efficiency of delivering goods.

Platooning is also a cost saver. With the trucks driving close together at a constant speed, the lead vehicle cuts through the air and reduces the amount of air hitting the front of, and flowing between, the following vehicles. This is similar to when race cars or cyclists draft off one another in a race. The reduced aerodynamic drag on all of the vehicles in the platoon means that the trucks use less fuel, which reduces operating costs.

The U.S. Army is interested in platooning technologies for the potential to reduce the number of lives at risk in combat areas. Using platooning technologies in military applications could minimize the number of soldiers needed to man convoy vehicles, resulting in a reduced number of soldiers at risk of encountering roadside bombs.

Coordinated Research

The Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office’s (VTO) Energy Efficient Mobility Systems (EEMS) Program coordinates with the U.S Army and the Department of Transportation (DOT) in this shared space to accelerate research and development. DOT’s mission is to serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system. DOT sees platooning as one way to improve the safety of trucking through collision avoidance features. VTO is interested in the potential to improve energy efficiency and cut costs for businesses and consumers through this technology.

VTO’s EEMS Program is investigating the potential impact platooning technology could have on energy use in our transportation system. Recent EEMS research done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory used telematics, or on-board data logging, to estimate the amount of platoonable miles travelled by trucks and found 65% of the miles could be platooned, resulting in a 4% reduction in total truck fuel consumption. Another recent VTO funded study assessed the energy impact of adaptive cruise control and showed that the middle truck in a platoon saves the most at shorter gaps, while the trailing truck saves the most at longer gaps.

To learn more about the Department's work on connected and automated vehicle technologies, visit the Energy Efficient Mobility Systems page on Vehicle Technologies Office website.

 

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Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists and Engineers—As We Were Inspired

Ten-year-old Leo worked in the Education Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), fitting together snap-on electrical circuits. The boy from a Denver community center was enthralled by the sheer joy of adding buzzers, lights, and switches to the device. Sitting at a desk nearby, Rhielle carefully colored a drawing of a solar panel. “I want to be everything: a singer, waitress, scientist, baker—because baking is a science,” the eight-year-old explained. Everywhere, the room buzzed with energy, as 16 grade schoolers performed experiments and talked to volunteer researchers as part of a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outreach connecting NREL with our local community.

It reminded me of my own start on the pathway of scientific discovery. As a high school student in Regensburg, Germany, I wondered about this exotic world of test tubes and microscopes—and so visited the office of a distinguished biologist in my hometown university. I asked if he would talk to me—but he was busy at the moment. Instead, this scientist invited me into his laboratory, where I saw first-hand some of his experiments. Later, we chatted and he gave me a basic college text.

He continued to follow me, and mentored me throughout my science studies. I’ve never forgotten that lesson about the importance of sharing science with younger minds. That is why I’m so enthusiastic about STEM learning, and support it passionately at NREL. Whenever we can engage younger students—especially those who may not have had a chance to consider science and engineering as careers—we are building our future.

Throughout the year, NREL actively engages in a range of STEM events. Last May, we held NREL’s 27th annual Junior Solar Sprint and Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Battery Car Competitions on campus, attracting 53 teams from 18 Colorado middle schools. Maybe you’ve been to something like this. Some cars scoot, some fizzle—yet regardless of the finish, everyone gains hands-on experience. Likewise, we co-sponsored the 27th Colorado Science Bowl, giving kids a chance to test their knowledge against other aspiring young researchers. This year the Lambkins from Ft. Collins roared to victory, correctly answering a range of questions across the sciences. We were part of the first Energy Day Colorado this fall, giving academic awards to promising scholars.

Whenever we can, we try to open our doors to prospects. Hannah, a high school sophomore from Boulder, won an NREL-sponsored award at the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair. Sure, she’d already gotten a plaque made from a recycled solar panel and a stipend of $100 for a building cooling project—but we wanted to give her something more. So we arranged a campus tour so that she could talk to researchers in her field. She chatted happily, and afterwards declared, “This place is cool.” Although she has a ways to go, she was clear: because both science and NREL are now positively linked in her mind, she hopes to one day work at the lab. Now that would be cool.

Of course, we won’t know for years whether Hannah will come here, chose another national laboratory, or find a different path. Likewise, we can’t foresee whether Leo will become an electrical engineer or Rhielle seek a career as a chemist. But we do know that 3,688 students who have visited NREL this year, or gone to competitions we’ve run, have all gained exposure to STEM activities. We can’t tell immediately how much impact these encounters have had—although the smiles of students tell us a lot—but speaking from personal experience, we should be confident that this type of inspiration can last a lifetime and will build our future.

Kids enjoying STEM activities at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)

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