NREL Launches Foundation to Fund Scholarships, Research
Tuesday, September 07, 2021 | Comments

A nonprofit organization created in association with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will provide new sources of capital to fund research activities and create additional scholarship and STEM opportunities.

The NREL Foundation will bring in funding that otherwise would be unavailable to the laboratory and enable access to new sources of nonfederal funding. As donors contribute to the foundation, money will be aggregated and earmarked to fund specific research projects at NREL.

“We are going to be very strategic in the investments that we make,” said NREL Foundation Executive Director Kristin Gray. “So, we are looking at NREL’s mission space: sustainable transportation, energy efficiency, renewable power generation, and energy systems integration.”

Gray will be assisted in leading the foundation by a three-person board: Alan Simon, Mary S. Wenzel and Barb Goodman. Simon, who serves as president, is CEO of North America Closeshoring. Wenzel, the treasurer, is executive vice president and head of sustainability and environmental, social and governance integration for Wells Fargo. Goodman, the secretary, retired in 2018 after nearly 35 years at NREL, and most recently worked as executive director of institutional planning, integration and development.

“It is exciting to see the NREL Foundation come to life,” said Bill Farris, NREL’s associate laboratory director for innovation, partnering and outreach. “The purpose of the foundation is to better connect the philanthropic world to the cutting-edge research capabilities of NREL. These connections will allow us to achieve a greater impact on our mission.”

The initial pool of funds donated to the 501(c)3 will provide additional sources to finance research and development efforts at NREL. A committee will consider applications for the funds and the foundation will enter into research agreements with NREL. The projects will go through the normal review and approval process with the Department of Energy (DOE).

Another prong of the foundation’s mission will be to provide funds for STEM projects for students and teachers from kindergarten through high school, and for scholarships and internships for undergraduate and graduate students.

The foundation was established as an independent legal entity separate from the laboratory to avoid conflicts of interest. Three other national laboratories within the DOE system have established foundations. These foundations have increased access to private sector, philanthropic funding and seek flexibility to conduct mission-related programs using new mechanisms.

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