Energy proposals may help region

A state energy research park in Saratoga County and many existing research programs are likely to be

A state energy research park in Saratoga County and many existing research programs are likely to benefit from the alternative energy plans Gov. David Paterson outlined in Wednesday’s State of the State speech in Albany.

“Obviously, the Capital Region has tremendous assets in terms of colleges and universities and we have the STEP park here,” said Tom Lynch, a spokesman for the state Energy Research and Development Authority.

The 280-acre Saratoga Technology + Energy Park in Malta, known as STEP, is owned by NYSERDA. It was announced as an alternative energy research center by former Gov. George Pataki in 2001 but has seen only early-stage development since then.

Several small energy companies are leasing space there now, but as many as 2,500 jobs have been projected when the park is fully developed.

“You create the R&D cluster and then manufacturing comes after that,” Lynch said.

Also proposed at STEP is a $50 million Department of Environmental Conservation alternative vehicle fuel research laboratory, designed but not yet funded. Last week, Paterson included the lab among “shovel-ready” projects that could be funded if a federal economic stimulus package is approved.

“It’s still out there as something being really strongly encouraged for environmental reasons as well as economic,” said Lori Severino, a DEC spokeswoman.

In his speech, Paterson called for a concerted effort to develop a new high-efficiency battery for plug-in hybrid vehicles and for creation of a New York Energy Policy Institute to coordinate the knowledge base and expertise of New York’s higher education institutions.

“The future of America’s energy and transportation policies rests on the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles,” Paterson said. “The state that positions itself in this market will revitalize its economy for years to come.”

He estimated as many as 50,000 new jobs could be created.

Lynch said the upstate research consortium Paterson outlined would likely include universities across upstate, including the Capital Region, and the STEP park is a potential manufacturing site.

“There are a lot of synergies here,” he said.

The General Electric Global Research complex in Niskayuna is working on several battery projects as well as developing wind, solar and other new energy technologies, said spokesman Todd Alhart.

“We welcome the emphasis the governor has placed on alternative energy,” Alhart said.

Paterson also set a statewide goal of meeting 45 percent of the state’s electricity needs by 2015 through improved efficiency and clean renewable energy, including backing for more energy efficient homes and businesses.

That initiative could be good news for companies like Plug Power, the fuel cell maker based in Latham with about 200 employees. Plug Power is developing both vehicle and residential fuel cell technology.

“We’re thrilled that Gov. Paterson has an emphasis on alternative energy for all New Yorkers,” said Katrina Fritz Intwala, a Plug Power spokeswoman.

Categories: Schenectady County

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