One Small Step for SUNY, One Big Step for Solar

The State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz took a step towards the future on Oct. 5 when Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-Hurley) announced the initial approval of a $5 million grant for solar energy research.

The grant, which has already passed in the U.S. House of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, is an investment to develop a test lab for solar energy research and development on behalf of the Department of Defense.

“We will continue to develop this great new strength,” Hinchey said of solar energy.

The funding would allow for the creation of a “test and characterization laboratory” led and staffed by New Paltz engineering and science professors and students. The proposed lab would allow the school and local companies to work beside each other to share equipment, knowledge and tools to meet the regulations and technical requirements set forth by the Department of Defense.

“This will obviously affect students in a positive way, especially with engineering, because anytime you can bring in industry connections and provide hands on experience the students benefit,” said Kyle DeFlaco, a fourth-year engineering student.

According to Hinchey, SUNY New Paltz business students and professors will benefit from the ability to develop a program to help the region’s solar companies. The plan is to have students helping local institutions understand the newest competitive models, develop a culture of innovation and understand how to best service the Department of Defense in its solar needs.

The experience working with professionals, according to Hinchey, will enhance students’ ability to compete in the free market and provide networking opportunities that can result in long term employment.

“Education is a very important thing and SUNY New Paltz has been interested in solar technology, and I think the provision in this funding will generation greater stimulation,” Hinchey said.

Hinchey, accompanied by SUNY New Paltz Interim President Donald Christian and Vincent Cozzolino, CEO and founder of The Solar Energy Consortium (TSEC), discussed the need for the Hudson Valley to invest in green technology. The Department of Defense agreed to the provisions of the Buy American Act which require that products purchased directly by the federal government contain at least 50 percent of American content. The act gives local businesses more incentive to invest and develop green energy technology.

Earlier this year, Hinchey built upon the aforementioned act by amending the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011. The amendment will require all solar energy panels purchased by the Department of Defense through subcontracts be made by American manufacturers.

The announcement was made at the Student Union Building but, thus far, no detailed budget has been developed. There is no certain time frame of construction for the lab, but Cozzolino said he expects the lab to be running within 18 months. Cozzolino also said the school is in the process of discussing how to disperse the grant money and where to construct the lab.

Chris Valdez

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