Tech-Development Efforts Hope To See Green From Clean Energy

By Staff December 1, 2005

Recently announced ventures in New York, Michigan and California are proof that regional development authorities are starting to see clean-energy technology development as a possible jobs booster. Managers of the programs, which include two recently opened technology centers and a proposed venture-capital competition, hope to spur the same kind of economic growth from these alternative-energy efforts as was seen by high-tech incubators in the 1980s.

At the Troy, N.Y. , campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this summer, New York state officials opened a $20 million Center for Future Energy Systems , developed in partnership with Cornell University and the Brookhaven National Laboratory . Research at the center will focus on renewable energy and energy-conservation, with an initial emphasis on fuel cells, smart lighting and displays, and emerging renewable-energy systems.

Detroit’s Wayne State University is now home to the 45,000-sq.-ft. NextEnergy Center , which offers both laboratory facilities and curriculum-development grants to promote alternative-energy basic research and educational training efforts. The center is located in a larger technology-incubator campus, called TechTown . Researchers are focusing on hydrogen and distributed generation and also working with a range of auto makers and U.S. programs on alternative vehicle fuels, including biodiesel.

On the West Coast, Sacramento-area planners are hoping to capitalize on the large number of alternative-energy developers already in the area, including some 30 start-ups, according to a new report issued by the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance . The report proposes a $50,000 competition to spark venture-capital interest in area clean-energy businesses. The contest, featuring a $25,000 first prize along with a $15,000 second prize and a $10,000 people’s choice award, would be judged on the basis of competitors’ business plans, as well as technological innovation.