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Cuomo's proposed state budget includes $65M boost for Brookhaven National Lab projects

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at a news conference

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at a news conference at Hofstra University on Jan. 14, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

ALBANY - The Cuomo administration's proposed state budget would earmark $65 million over several years for three projects to expand research at Brookhaven National Laboratory, including one to help it land a lucrative federal nuclear physics facility.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also will propose committing $5 billion over 10 years through New York's energy agency to bankroll the state's Clean Energy Fund, which is intended to boost solar energy and other renewable sources. The governor, a Democrat re-elected in November, is scheduled to unveil his entire budget -- expected to be around $142 billion -- on Wednesday.

Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University have ramped up efforts to make Long Island a center for battery research. But state officials said two other pending projects are important to keep the momentum of the partnership going.

One centers on competition for an electron ion collider. Federal energy officials are weighing whether to greenlight the $600 million project, and, if approved, whether to put it at Brookhaven or the Jefferson National Lab in Newport News, Virginia. Decisions are due this year.

Cuomo will propose earmarking $25 million in state funds to help Brookhaven's bid. State financial commitments will be a factor in Washington's siting decision, Cuomo officials said.

"This is our way of saying, 'Yeah, we're serious' " about winning, said a Cuomo official.

Brookhaven and state officials took notice when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, also a Democrat, last week proposed spending $4.2 million to help Jefferson get the facility, saying it could create 4,900 jobs.

Doon Gibbs, Brookhaven Lab director, said landing the collider would "mean world leadership for Brookhaven and New York State in the field of nuclear physics."

Besides construction jobs, the facility could "attract really remarkable people to the region" and help Brookhaven develop spinoff technologies. A state financial commitment "is very important" to the lab's chances, he said.

Separately, Cuomo would allot $25 million to help Brookhaven further develop a successor to its massive X-ray machine, the National Synchrotron Light Source, which can analyze subatomic surfaces.

Earlier this month, Brookhaven and Stony Brook researchers using the NSLS said they had unlocked a way to speed the flow of electricity inside lithium batteries. An estimated 2,400 researchers from around the world use the facility annually, according to Brookhaven Lab.

Brookhaven ended NSLS operations in 2014 and recently opened a successor, NSLS-II, which boasts, according to lab officials, "the brightest light on Earth." Brookhaven is launching the process of building 60 super-powerful light beams in the facility over the next 10 years, each with a different function, Gibbs said.

The proposed state money would be dedicated to a light beam to enable "commercial developers to test battery and storage research in real time, provide better information on how intermittent and stored power fluctuates on the grid," Cuomo officials said.

"It will let you look inside a battery and see how the atomic structure is changing as it operates," Gibbs said.

The third Brookhaven project the Cuomo budget would fund, at $15 million, is an equipment and data-sharing consortium with private-sector partners.

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