Renewable energy comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and waves, and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished.
In 2008, about 19% of global final energy consumption came from renewables, with 13% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.2% from hydroelectricity. New renewables (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels) accounted for another 2.7% and are growing very rapidly. The share of renewables in electricity generation is around 18%, with 15% of global electricity coming from hydroelectricity and 3% from new renewables (Renewables 2010 Global Status Report, 2010, pp. 15–16).
While many renewable-energy projects are large scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas, where energy is often crucial in human development. Climate change concerns, coupled with high oil prices and increasing government support, are driving increasing renewable energy legislation, incentives, and the commercialization of renewable technologies.
Sandia National Laboratories has maintained research programs in solar, wind, and geothermal energy science and technologies since the 1970s. In recent decades, we have added research programs in biofuels and biomass to our renewable-energy portfolio. Use the menu to the right to explore our research programs and learn about our recent progress.
Wind energy programs at Sandia began in the early 1970s, leveraging our world-leading expertise in systems analysis and integration from our nuclear weapons programs. Our initial activities were aimed at modernizing the eggbeater-shaped vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) invented by G.J.M. Darrieus in the 1920s. We developed complex computer codes to accurately simulate the performance of a variety of blade configurations in a wide range of wind conditions and to predict their fatigue life. Advanced materials were applied to improve reliability. In return, the wind analyses activities stimulated advances in mathematical modeling that later found benefit in the nuclear weapons program, bringing this synergistic relationship full circle.
On average, about one and a half hours of the sunlight that falls on Earth could supply humanity with enough energy to meet all the world’s needs for an entire year. Harnessing even a fraction of this energy could supply humanity with abundant energy to live, move about, and thrive industrially and economically well into the foreseeable future. Sandia is working hard to help make this dream a reality.
Sandia’s work in drilling technology is aimed at reducing the cost and risk associated with drilling in harsh, subterranean environments. The historical focus of the drilling research has been directed at significantly expanding the nation’s utilization of geothermal energy. This focus in geothermal-related drilling research is the search for practical solutions to challenges associated with tapping the most intense sources of heat, typically found well below the earth’s surface in very severe environments.
Sandia spearheads research into energy alternatives that will help the nation reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and to combat the effects of climate change. Sandia’s long history with geothermal, solar, and wind energy research has seen a vast increase in effort and intensity over the past 15 years and has also been supplemented in recent years with efforts in biologically based fuels: biomass from nonfood plant sources and algae—both of which can be grown on land unsuitable for farming.
Price Premiums for Solar Home SalesA Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) -led multi-institutional research team, with Sandia (Geoffrey Klise, in Sandia’s Earth Systems Analysis Dept., contributing the Sandia-developed PV Value whole-system appraisal tool, among other things), universities, and appraisers found that home buyers have consistently been willing to pay more for homes with solar PV energy systems—averaging ~$4/watt of PV […]
CFD-Populated Empirical Turbine Wake ModelThe DTOcean team is developing a fast-running, easy to use current-energy capture (CEC) array spacing tool that considers tidal array performance vs efficiency. In support of this effort, Sandia has been assisting in developing the device wake modeling submodule that determines a tidal turbine’s wake properties (i.e., wake growth and dissipation). Initial efforts were focused on […]
Floating Oscillating Water Column Reference Model CompletedThe DOE-supported Reference Model Project was developed to provide publicly available technical and economic benchmarks for a variety of marine energy converters. The final reference model, an oscillating water column (OWC) device, has been completed. Key aspects of the Backward Bent Duct Buoy (BBDB) have been modeled and documented for public release. This model has […]
Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory managed and operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.