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Pacific Northwest National Lab

About Pacific Northwest National Lab

PNNL is focused on DOE's missions in science, energy, environment, and national security. PNNL researchers routinely integrate across fundamental science and applied technology programs, engaging partners across the country to take on big challenges. These efforts also deliver significant economic contributions to Washington State, the Northwest region and the nation. The dedication of our people to push the frontiers of science and engineering in order to solve some of the nation's greatest challenges is a hallmark of PNNL's 50 year history.


PNNL has a broad set of capabilities with applicability to solar energy technology development and deployment. Recent efforts focus on the application of PNNL's grid integration assets, materials science and engineering expertise, and chemical engineering foundations. These capabilities produce a range of applied research applications from early stage technology development for semiconductor and thermochemical energy storage materials to bench-scale reactor engineering and characterization, to modeling, simulation and predictive control of distributed energy resources including photovoltaics in real-time. Our expertise, techniques, and equipment can be categorized into three main areas:

  • Grid Integration: The new Systems Engineering Building provides state-of-the-art laboratory space and equipment that advance basic and applied research in electricity markets, generation, transmission, distribution, and end-use.
  • Chemical Engineering: Applied catalysis, reactor engineering, techno-economic analysis and other capabilities in the Applied Process Engineering Laboratory and other PNNL facilities are essential to thermochemical energy storage research focused on enhancing the value of solar energy production.
  • Materials Science and Engineering: Applied materials science research in metal hydride chemistry and non-oxide crystal and glass growth, processing, characterization, and modeling led to advances in thermochemical energy storage and radiation detection devices.

PNNL is also home to the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory, a national scientific user facility operated by PNNL for the Office of Biological and Environmental Science within DOE's Office of Science.


A number of unique PNNL capabilities help increase the amount of cost-effective solar energy used on and off the grid. PNNL's award-winning power engineers, chemical engineers, and physical scientists work closely with industry partners to advance solar energy technologies.

Some of our unique facilities include the Energy Infrastructure Operations Center (EIOC); the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute (MBI) at Oregon State University with its micro- and meso-channel reactor fabrication and testing facility; and the non-oxide materials synthesis laboratory (NOMSL).

  • Grid Integration Modeling and Simulation: Broad array of methods and tools developed at PNNL to model, predict and control grid integration of variable resources, such as distributed and facility scale solar energy, several of which have been implemented in operational settings. PNNL researchers developed tools such as GridOPTICS™ PowerNET Testbed, GridLab-D and VOLTTRON for distribution modeling and demand response, respectively, as well as probabilistic modeling methods highly relevant to variable generation resources.
  • Microchannel Reactor fabrication and testing, including on-sun dish concentrator system for thermochemical energy storage: Complete fabrication facilities for making and testing micro- and meso-channel reactors for thermochemical energy storage systems, including a 12 kW dish concentrator system for on-sun testing and unique metal hydride test benches.
  • Single Crystal Growth, Processing and Characterization: Non-oxide materials synthesis laboratory (NOMSL) houses wide range of amorphous and crystalline materials (e.g. chalcogenides, chalocpyrites, semiconductors, etc.) grown under anoxic and anhydrous conditions; capable of crystal growth, cutting, polishing and characterization. A full suite of materials characterization methods is available in EMSL and elsewhere at PNNL.
Photo of metal cylinder device that helps Pacific Northwest National Lab with solar energy technology development and deployment.

A mellen gradient funace in a horizontal configuration for CdTe crystal growth. Photo by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Photo of several people in a control room monitoring data.

The Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center at PNNL, where grid operations can be monitored and modeled. Photo by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.