From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
Here’s a look at some of the work in progress at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Center for Atmospheric Research.
• Developing a system for predicting wildfires and wildfire behavior. This project at NCAR, funded by the National Science Foundation, is designed to help control the rapidly increasing costs after forest, grass and other wildfires. In 2016, more than 67,000 wildfires burned on 5.5 million acres around the nation. The U.S. Forest Service spends more than $2.5 billion a year trying to control wildfires. That amount increased 60 percent over the past decade.
• Measuring climate change. NOAA oversees collection of air data at a network of climate-observation stations. Scientists collect air samples and measure essential indicators of climate change, such as the concentrations of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere (more than 410 parts per million). Instruments used worldwide to measure air are calibrated using technology developed here.
• Forecasting weather. NOAA scientists develop the forecasting tools used by the National Weather Service, including a new system focused on severe storms.
• Space-weather studies. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center monitors storms in space and issues warnings to aircraft pilots, military commanders and utility-grid operators about potentially damaging solar flares and eruptions.
• Solar, wind and advanced fuels. The super-thin solar panel technology developed at NREL has gone commercial. NREL researchers also have created better wind turbine blades used by companies such as General Electric. Other companies are looking at new fuels developed at the NREL facilities.
• New materials for industry. NREL researchers are developing materials including ammonia for fertilizer, ethylene for plastics and acrylonitrile for carbon fiber.