National Grid gives grants for SUNY ZEN building

Times Union | March 23, 2015 | Column by Larry Rulison

National Grid hopes grants for SUNY building yield rewards

Exterior of the Zero Energy Nano, ZEN, building at the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute Monday, March 23, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. (Will Waldron/Times Union)


National Grid announced last month that it is giving two grants totaling $1 million to SUNYPolytechnic Institute for its new 356,000-square-foot ZEN building.

The money will go a long way to help launch a new renewable energy "test bed" at SUNY Poly — including a 2-megawatt solar farm that is planned for the school's Fuller Road campus.

But the investment will also help give National Grid invaluable experience in learning how to integrate renewable energy into the electrical grid — which will be critical under a new regulatory framework being adopted by state utility regulators.

"Strategic partnerships like the one between National Grid and SUNY Poly CNSE are critical to creating new, sustainable energy solutions for the future and developing an energy system that underpins economic prosperity in the 21st century," Kenneth Daly, president of National Grid New York, said last month at the annual meeting of iClean, a clean-tech incubator at SUNY Poly that was funded by NYSERDA, the state's energy development agency.

Part of what Daly was referring to is Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reform of the utility markets in the state, otherwise known as REV (Reforming the Energy Vision).

The first phase of REV was adopted late last month by the state Public Service Commission. Under REV, utilities like National Grid would open up the electrical grid to more widespread use of renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and hydrogen-powered fuel cells, as well as other consumer-oriented services and products that would allow homeowners to have more control over their energy usage. The integration would be market-based, meaning that there would be incentives for both consumers and the utility to put renewable energy generation where it is most needed on the grid.

"We need to be prepared to utilize more and more renewables onto our system," Daly told theTimes Union in a recent interview. "They (SUNY Poly) are creating an ecosystem for this convergence."

One of the National Grid grants will be for $250,000 to create a new incubator grant program called Integrated Solutions for PV Installations for Rooftop Energy, or INSPIRE. That will allow iClean members to get access to renewable energy testing facilities at ZEN (Zero EnergyNano) so that they can create new products and services that could one day be sold onto the electrical grid. PV stands for photovoltaic, which is solar electric technology.

The other $750,000 grant will go to pay for the design of the new renewable energy test bed at ZEN, known as the Smart Energy Test Facility. Those facilities will generate the electricity for ZEN, which, when completed this summer, will be the world's largest "zero energy" building, meaning it generates more electricity than it uses. The biggest part of the test bed will be the 2-megawatt solar farm, which is expected to be "highly visible" on the SUNY Poly campus, according to Pradeep Haldar, head of clean energy programs at the institute.

[email protected] • 518-454-5504 • @larryrulison

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National Grid gives grants for SUNY ZEN building
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PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.