Tech-Development Efforts Hope To See Green From Clean Energy


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.

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