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When a solar company wants to test new technology, they bring their panels to the National Renewable Energy Lab near Denver. It’s a place where federal scientists can measure how powerful and long-lasting solar panels are, so consumers know what they are buying.
“A lot of times maybe people don’t even know how to evaluate new technologies appropriately. And so we have a lot of insight and knowledge into the market that can help with some of those decisions,” lab engineer Chris Deline explained.
It’s just one of the Department of Energy’s 17 national laboratories, where research is wide-ranging — from fossil fuel-based energy, to understanding dark matter in the universe. Under the Obama administration, research and development dollars flowed into renewable energy.
There is concern over the future of the labs as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for energy secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, takes the hot seat at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday morning. Perry infamously called for the department’s elimination while running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, and Trump and Perry have at times questioned climate science.