NREL enables access to renewable fuel data

By Erin Voegele | October 31, 2011

The U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has launched a new website that aims to make its vast library of data related to renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative transportation more accessible than ever before. The new site,, provides data feeds that computer programmers can access and use applications they develop for use on mobile and web platforms. The first data set that will be offered on the new site includes a comprehensive, nationwide list of alternative fueling locations that supply biodiesel, ethanol, electricity or natural gas.

“Every year, we get hundreds of requests for our data,” said NREL project manager Johanna Levene. “In the vast majority of cases, we’ve been happy to provide it, but the person on the other end has had to go to the trouble of finding the right person, asking for the data, downloading it and updating it to keep it current. NREL’s new subsite automates that entire process and serves as a seamless data conduit directly from NREL to another organization’s application.”

Application developers are able to retrieve data through a web service application programming interface. The site currently includes three types of search queries that allow the user to either return a full list of alternative fuel stations that match his or her search, an option to retrieve the data when the alternative fuel station data was last updated, and a method to search for the nearest alternative fueling stations to a give location. According to NREL, developers who access the data will be able to tailor it to their own specific needs. “For example, an organization could use NREL’s alternative fueling station data to create an application that reveals the locations of all electric vehicle charging stations inside a particular state or city,” said NREL in a statement.

While the data feeds included in the new site are not designed to be directly useful to the general public, the application development it will enable will be.  “NREL wouldn’t necessarily build a mapping tool for charging stations in South Carolina, for instance, but for someone else, that kind of application might be of tremendous value,” Levene said. “Providing our station data through Web services allows developers to slice and dice the information based on their own interests and their own geographical regions... This is a much more streamlined way of pushing out our information on energy efficiency and renewable energy to the rest of the world. We expect that people will develop all kinds of creative applications and uses for it that we haven’t even dreamed of.”

In addition to data related to alternative fuels that the website currently includes, NREL will soon add a new data set that includes all federal and state laws and incentives related to alternative fuel vehicles. There are also plans to add data related to electric vehicles, wind and solar energy. 


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