The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has signed a contract with the design build team of JE Dunn and SmithGroup to begin design and construction for the latest research building on the NREL campus.

The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) will be the nation’s only facility that can conduct integrated megawatt-scale testing of all components and strategies critical to deploying renewable energy and other energy-efficiency technologies into the nation’s electric grid at utility scale.

The ESIF will be approximately 175,000 sq ft and the building will house laboratories as well as office space for 200-250 NREL researchers and support staff. The ESIF will also include a state-of-the-art, high-performance computing and data center that will expand NREL’s capabilities in modeling and simulation of renewable energy technologies and their integration into the existing energy infrastructure.

The project will be designed and constructed to meet LEED Gold Certification (at minimum) and will be a model for energy efficient facilities. The ESIF data center is designed to be one of the most energy efficient in the world. Construction of the $135 million project will start in the spring of 2011 and will be completed in late 2012.

“Incorporating large amounts of renewable energy into the aging grid is going to require a transformation in this country’s electricity infrastructure,” NREL director Dan Arvizu said. “We are eager to begin construction on this unique facility that will help speed the adoption of renewable energy for everyone’s everyday use.”

JE Dunn Construction Group is the 10th largest general building contractor in the United States with offices in 18 locations.

NREL is DOE’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.