The winds of change were definitely blowing on Tuesday. The blustery weather was fitting for a ribbon-cutting of 26 new electric vehicle charging stations at SUNY Schenectady, an event aimed at building a future of green energy on campus, in Schenectady and in the Capital Region more broadly.
“I did put the order in for the wind today,” Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said to chuckles. “You have to be able to generate green energy to be able to power these charging stations. And as we move off carbon-based sources, you want to look for solar and wind as key components to the evolving network that’s out there.”
The new charging stations, with 14 in the main lot, six in the School of Music parking lot and six in the Center for Science and Technology parking lot, are a component of McCarthy’s Smart City initiatives, which includes green projects such as a partnership with National Grid to replace more than 4,000 streetlights with energy-efficient LED lights.
The 26 EV charging stations at SUNY were installed jointly by Schenectady-based Livingston Energy Group and National Grid. The level 2 stations can recoup about 25 miles in an hour, according to Kate Kruk, director of community engagement at Livingston. The project cost $251,987 with grants and incentives covering the bill.
State Assemblyman Phil Steck, whose own car was hooked up to one of the EV charging stations, said Schenectady is at the forefront of green energy initiatives, and he was glad that a local company like Livingston could help provide the infrastructure.
“We want to support local businesses rather than bringing in companies from California to supply charging stations,” Steck said.
The 26 new stations, an increase from three EV stations on campus previously, is a move in the right direction, but leaders said it is just a start.
Laura Poltynski, New York regional director at National Grid, said the utility’s goal is to install 16,000 plugs across upstate New York by 2025. Currently, National Grid has 200 EV plugs, and has applications for about 1,700 more, according to National Grid spokesperson Patrick Stella.
On campus, the 26 EV stations represent a small fraction of the total parking. The campus has 915 spots, according to SUNY Schenectady President Steady Moono. On Schenectady’s city streets, there are about 400 spots, with the city owning 28 EV charging stations, according to McCarthy. These totals don’t include independently-run parking garages and lots.
EV stations can be a meaningful part of urban development, according to Jim Salengo, executive director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp.
“There are a lot of moving pieces that come together to make a vibrant downtown,” Salengo said. “The people who have electric vehicles are looking for the communities that are welcoming, that are putting their best foot forward, putting charging stations like this up.”
Moono said sustainability is a critical part of SUNY Schenectady’s strategic plan, and he is optimistic about the future.
“I look forward to the day when we can look around our parking lots and all vehicles will be sustainable vehicles,” he said.