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GOLDEN, CO-The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in this city, nestled in the foothills in the metro area’s west side, plans to break ground next spring on a new 71,000-sf building. The $17.5-million facility will be used for basic science research.

One of the things the center will do is work to develop more efficient hydrogen-fuel cell technology for automobiles. Earlier this year, President Bush earmarked $1.2 billion to develop hydrogn-powered cars. Some Detroit automakers are working with the lab, known as NREL (pronounced N-Rail) on the cars.

So far, NREL is planning to use $4 million from next year’s budget to kick-start the new facility known as the Science and Technology Facility. It will be able to house 200 employees, although few new hires are anticipated at this point.

NREL has a 300-acre campus with seven buildings. The last one was built seven years ago, and the land is expected to be able to handle growth over the next 25 years.

While things such as biotech and telecommunications are given more attention, a growing number of business leaders are starting to say that the Denver-area could become the renewable energy capital of the U.S. If so, NREL could play a key role in that. Ultimately, the field could bring a large number of high-paying jobs to the metro area.

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