UB awarded $1 million in Gov. Cuomo's "Energy to Lead" competition

kids at strand

Published May 16, 2016

“I congratulate our winning students and faculty, and commend them for their commitment to helping to build a cleaner, greener New York”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A University at Buffalo-backed plan to create 100 megawatts of new, locally produced solar energy within the next four years is among the winners of a clean energy competition for New York colleges and universities.

Winners of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s $3 million Energy to Lead competition were announced today (May 16) in an event at Bard College in Dutchess County.

The Energy to Lead program is part of the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) Campus Challenge, an initiative sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

As an Energy to Lead recipient, the UB proposal will receive $1 million to help implement its plan. The two other winners are Bard College and SUNY Broome Community College in Binghamton.

Cuomo announced the Energy to Lead competition in October 2015 to challenge colleges and universities to develop innovative plans for clean energy projects.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) administered the competition, which was open to private and public universities and colleges and student-led coalitions from two- or four-year institutions.

“The ‘Energy to Lead Competition' is challenging New York’s emerging energy leaders to turn innovative ideas into cutting-edge solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower energy bills and improve resiliency in communities across the state,” Cuomo said. “I congratulate our winning students and faculty, and commend them for their commitment to helping to build a cleaner, greener New York.”

“The University at Buffalo is honored to be selected by Gov. Cuomo’s Energy to Lead competition and the innovative Reforming the Energy Vision initiative,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi.

“Our university has a long tradition of leadership in research, education and engagement initiatives focused on creating a more sustainable future for our communities and our world. This groundbreaking proposal leverages this leadership and will help us build even further on our impact. We look forward to working with our community to realize the great potential of this initiative, from further implementing our climate action plan to achieving energy savings and driving economic vitality in our region,” Tripathi added.

UB is the lead agency in a consortium of Buffalo-based institutions in the Localizing Buffalo’s Renewable Energy Future initiative.

The project aims to create 100 megawatts of new solar energy that will be manufactured in Buffalo, connected by Western New York workers and installed on properties in Buffalo’s urban core and on several local college campuses, including UB, SUNY Buffalo State and Erie Community College.

It is estimated that the initiative will:

  • produce $125 million in lower energy costs and savings
  • create 3,300 new local jobs
  • infuse more than $250 million in economic impact into the region
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 82,000 metric tons annually

The proposal will leverage the innovative work being done with Renewable Energy Purchase Agreements (REPA), or contracts to purchase power from a renewable energy project for a predetermined price over a specified period of time. This allows institutions like UB to work with project developers who finance the money needed to build a project while allowing energy purchasers to avoid the need to use up-front capital.

UB’s Localizing plan will enable multiple institutions to increase their purchasing power, which will significantly lower the price point. UB, SUNY Buffalo State and ECC each have committed to purchase 25 percent of their energy from the Localizing REPA, as long as the competitive price point falls well below their respective historical rolling average energy prices.

The project also aims to partner with the City of Buffalo and community organizations to utilize long-vacant properties throughout the city for solar panel siting, as well as city infrastructure — such as fire and police stations, parking lots and community centers — and local college campuses.

UB will look to its 3,200-photovoltaic panel Solar Strand for inspiration in integrating solar into Buffalo neighborhoods. The Solar Strand was designed to be accessible to the public – not fenced off to be avoided – while producing enough electricity to fuel 700 student apartments.

The Localizing Buffalo’s Renewable Energy Future initiative symbolizes UB’s commitment to sustainability, both on campus and within the larger community. Among its goals, the university strives to become climate neutral by 2030.

A recognized leader in sustainability in New York State and across the nation, UB recently ranked No. 1 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership list of the largest college and university green power users.

UB’s project partners include: the City of Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State, the Education Leadership Fellows in Sustainability program at UB, Erie Community College, Erie County, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“I would like to extend a personal thanks to our project partners, who were critical to the success of getting this proposal selected, as were our student, faculty and staff representatives who worked tirelessly on preparing the proposal,” said Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer. “This truly was a collaborative effort on a significant scale.”

Reaction from UB partners:

Byron W. Brown, mayor, City of Buffalo:

“The City of Buffalo is proud to partner with UB, SUNY Buffalo State, Erie Community College and Erie County to help Buffalo further its transition to a more green and inclusive economy. Thousands of new ‘green’ jobs are slated to be created in the sustainable energy field, replacing many of the traditional manufacturing jobs that were lost. Buffalo is poised to become a national leader in the sustainable energy industry.”

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo:
“This initiative would instill greater budget predictability and stability for the institutions involved and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 600,000 metric tons annually, the equivalent of the total energy use of 55,000 homes.”

Katherine Conway-Turner, president, SUNY Buffalo State:
“This proposal is an excellent example of the transformative impact that can be achieved through partnerships between academic, municipal, and private business leaders.”

Jack Quinn, president, SUNY Erie Community College:
“The 3,300 local jobs, and $250 million impact on our local economy, this initiative hopes to create will help our students to graduate, live and work locally in green-focused careers, enhancing our region's ongoing resurgence even further.”

Katrina Cropo, secretary of the executive board for Alpha Kappa Chi, UB’s professional environmental fraternity:
“Such a significant shift to localized, renewable energy will not only help UB achieve its goal of becoming climate neutral by 2030, but this initiative has the potential to expand opportunities for students in learning about renewable energy production, community engagement, energy and sustainability literacy, and the importance of regional partnerships to advance sustainability. Buffalo is a thriving city of young minds with a deep passion for social and environmental justice. This initiative will only further help to facilitate that passion, bringing jobs for the many college graduates and initiating economic growth.”

Mark Shriver, president, Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable; director of safety and environmental affairs, Curbell, Inc.:
“The added power will help to offset increased consumption, reduce stress on the overall grid and help to maintain pricing. This in itself supports our efforts in strengthening our businesses and promoting a healthy community. Because of the proposed visibility of the project, this could take our region’s image to heights not seen since the street lights first went on. Coupled with low-cost energy, the benefits could sustain growth throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region for decades to come.”

Derek Nichols, vice chair, Western New York Environmental Alliance:
“The initiative’s goals represent exactly the type of solutions-based approach that our community, state and nation need to pursue aggressively to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change. By choosing to invest locally and use existing urban infrastructure, the initiative is saving greenspace and wildlife habitat in other less developed spaces throughout the region. The decentralized distribution for the project also works to not only build resilience but also potentially provide neighborhoods with needed investment and empowerment.”

Chris O’Brien, director of higher education programs, Altenex:
“This effort’s goal of developing 100 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2020, sited within Buffalo’s urban core and university campuses, is innovative by leveraging Buffalo’s history of industrial leadership to use renewable energy as a community redevelopment catalyst.”

Daniel Montante, president, Montante Solar:
“The economic, educational and sustainable impact of such a partnership would greatly benefit the region for years to come. This partnership positions the University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State and Erie Community College to create world-leading energy and sustainability programs that will produce future leaders for industries and organizations across the board.”

Shaun Chapman, vice president, policy and electricity markets, SolarCity:
“By seeking to deploy 100 megawatts of new solar energy by 2020 and siting it within Buffalo’s urban core and university campuses, the project is working to flip the conventional wisdom that siting energy generation facilities is a liability — to the contrary, this initiative is working to leverage Buffalo’s historical past as a renewable energy leader and siting solar in a way where it will be a net asset to the community.”

Adam K. Rizzo, president, Solar Liberty Energy Systems:
“As the installation partner with NYPA on the UB Solar Strand, we have witnessed first-hand how much UB has stood as the beacon of sustainability in our area, throughout the SUNY system and across New York State. This drive brings these efforts to a new level, keeping UB and the Buffalo area as the pinnacle of our united drive toward a sustainable environment.”