Colorado Division of Aeronautics and National Renewable Energy Laboratory Kick Off Alternatively Powered Aircraft Study

News Release

May 22, 2023 - Denver Metro/Central Colorado

Watkins – The Colorado Division of Aeronautics has entered into a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to conduct a study to help identify future opportunities and potential challenges posed by the introduction of alternatively powered aircraft in Colorado. This is the first partnership of its kind in the United States to address the next generation of aircraft and aviation fuels. The Colorado Aeronautical Board approved an allocation of $400,000 from the Colorado Aviation Fund to support the study being conducted by NREL.

The study is aimed to help Colorado effectively leverage the benefits of the latest advancements in aviation technology and will inform planning efforts for necessary investments in Colorado’s airport infrastructure, increased utility demand, policy and regulatory considerations, and future funding implications. As part of the study process, the Colorado Division of Aeronautics established a study advisory committee comprised of a wide range of stakeholders representing Federal and State government agencies, public utilities, aircraft manufacturers, and others. The committee will offer expert insight into the subject matter and will assist with the review of the study’s reporting and final deliverables.

The study’s specific objectives include:

  • Identify and summarize new alternatively powered general aviation (GA) and regional air carrier aircraft that could utilize Colorado’s existing system of 76 public use airports.
  • Track how Coloradans currently move about the state and explore opportunities to make future travel faster and more efficient utilizing the latest advancements in aviation technology, while broadening access to air travel and reducing the overall impact to the environment.
  • Evaluate and summarize necessary local utility infrastructure needs at key Colorado airports required to support and accommodate new aircraft and aviation fuel technology.
  • Identify Colorado airports where new battery-electric GA aircraft could likely be deployed, lowering the cost of flight training, while minimizing noise and other environmental impacts.
  • Identify governmental policy and regulatory considerations, financial implications, and potential incentives geared to encourage and support new aviation technology.

The Division is eager to support this next generation of aircraft technology, leading the way to help create opportunities to make transportation in Colorado more accessible and equitable, while exploring practical solutions to reduce travel costs and lower environmental impacts.

“The Division of Aeronautics is proud to once again be a national pioneer in helping leverage new technology for the benefit of all Coloradans. This collaboration with NREL will help us continue to innovate and help prepare our public use airport system for the next generation of alternatively powered aircraft. All this will make air transportation in Colorado more efficient, more equitable and accessible, with reduced environmental impacts,” said Colorado Aeronautics Division Director David Ulane.

“Colorado’s Division of Aeronautics is undertaking a first-of-its-kind statewide evaluation of next-generation aircraft, aviation fuels, and implications on necessary infrastructure,” said NREL Strategic Partnerships Manager Brett Oakleaf. “This leadership is critical for preparing and de-risking the aviation transition for Colorado and its airports.”

For more than 40 years, NREL’s world-class research staff has devised solutions to transform the way we generate, consume, store, and distribute energy. NREL's support of the Division’s landmark aviation study reflects a broad, coordinated sustainable aviation research strategy that paves the way for research, development, demonstration, and deployment—leading to solutions for decarbonizing aviation.

The study is expected to take 18 months to complete with final results being published in the fall of 2024.

The Colorado Airport System consists of 76 public-use airports that support over 345,661 jobs, provide $16.2 billion in annual payroll and $48.6 billion in total annual business revenue/output for the State of Colorado.

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About the Division of Aeronautics

Under the Direction of the Colorado Aeronautical Board, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics supports Colorado's multi-modal transportation system by advancing a safe, efficient, and effective statewide aviation system through collaboration, investment and advocacy. In partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, 76 public-use airports and a diverse group of aviation system users, the Division also works to promote aviation safety and education through the efficient administration of the Colorado Aviation Fund. For more information, visit or check us out on YouTube, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.