Skidmore Partnership to Grow Clean Tech Economy

Posted by Alex Hodor-Lee

John Rhodes, president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Association (NYSERDA) had to hop over mud to get from his car, which he parked in the Tang parking lot, to the Museum's front door. The mud is a result of workers digging along the Tang as part of the College's new geothermal projects, which utilize the earth's natural warmth to heat and cool College facilities. Upon completion, the geothermal projects will naturally generate approximately 40% of the College's energy.

The project is just one in a slew of new initiatives that invest in renewable energy. It is also the type of project that is drawing attention from government officials hoping to grow the clean tech economy in New York State.

That's why Mr. Rhodes arrived at the College on Monday to announce a partnership between Skidmore and NYSERDA and the launch of New York Executive Clean Energy Leadership Program (NY EXCEL).

NYSERDA, founded by the State Legislature in 1975 and now operating under the auspices of the Governor Andrew Cuomo's Administration, aims to "help New York meet its energy goals: reducing energy consumption, promoting the use of renewable energy sources, and protecting the environment," according to its website.

"We expect Skidmore to bring a variety of experts to act as business managers to a set of budding clean tech entrepreneurs, drawn from all sorts of sectors but who have the experience and the interest in the sector," Rhodes told reporters in a press conference at the Tang.

NYSERDA recently granted Skidmore $400,000 to create a new and attractive advanced training program to educate some of the State's preeminent business executives in clean technology, including renewable energy, an economy that State officials are hoping to increase.

NY EXCEL will accept 25 executives. Participants will undergo an intensive 30-hour classroom residency on campus in August. In addition to monthly, weekend courses, executives will return to Saratoga in January to promote their knowledge of clean tech and renewable energy.

"This program reinforces the idea that the Upstate New York region is one of the top places in the United States for clean energy. This program is critical to promoting our region on the national stage. Clean energy is one of the strongest components of our economy," Mike Tucker of the Center for Economic Growth, a non-profit that focuses on growing new economies in the Capital Region, told reporters, 

From the College's perspective, the partnership signals a potentially fruitful relationship between Skidmore and the State, both of which have made concerted, overlapping efforts to invest in renewable energy technologies.

"Clean energy, we think, is good business and we also think it's responsible citizenship; and that is something that we care very deeply about, both for our students-something they need to learn to take away from their education at Skidmore-and something we try to practice in our dealings with the larger community. We try to be a good citizen," College President Philip Glotzbach said in the press conference.

In addition to promoting a more eco-friendly approach, the goal of NYEXCEL is to increase job opportunities, and, thus, employment in New York State. 

F. William Harder Business Professor, Catherine Hill, who has been a leading force behind the partnership, also cited the moral underpinning that supports NY EXCEL. She invoked the recent cyclone in the Philippines; Hurricane Irene, which greatly affected the tri-state area; and super storm Sandy, which caused $80 billion in damage for New York State and New Jersey last Oct. 

"Sandy and Irene accounted for about 80 billion dollars in damages but none of that touches the inescapable loss of life, lives interrupted and lives ruined as a result of those tragedies. Now the cause is clear: it's not that any particular one weather event can be blamed on climate change, but I think I see a pattern and climate change is real and it is here and it is now and I believe we have an opportunity and a responsibility to do something about it." Hill told reporters gathered in the Tang's Payne room.

"NY EXCEL is going to help existing executives start businesses in the clean sector and grow jobs in New York...we're going to help them build clean tech networks, we're going to help them understand energy and gas markets and explore the often arcane structure of tax incentives and financing mechanisms. We live in an extremely exciting time for the clean tech business," Hill added.

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