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Suffolk college seeks $19M for energy center

Suffolk County Community College wants to offer more

Suffolk County Community College wants to offer more training programs to teach technicians how to work with high-tech materials called composites. Long Island aerospace companies need more of these skilled workers. Credit: Handout, 2010

Suffolk County Community College officials want County Executive Steve Bellone to budget for a new $19.5-million training center for solar and other renewable energy technologies.

The two-story, 33,792- square-foot Renewable Energy and STEM Center on the Brentwood campus would be the first of its kind in the state community college system. It would house laboratories and classrooms to teach installation, maintenance and repair of solar, photovoltaic, wind power, geothermal and other green power technologies.

Preliminary plans call for the building to be solar-powered with geothermal heating. It would contain a prototype solar house on rails that could be worked on indoors or rolled outside to test various renewable energy materials.

"The College's approach is far-reaching and will set our county apart from others in the state," SCCC President Shaun McKay said in a statement. He said the center would help meet "the workforce needs of area businesses by increasing the pool of technicians that are skilled in renewable energy systems."

College officials have been discussing the concept of the new building for two years, and made their first formal proposal to Bellone's budget office on Friday.

The college wants Bellone to fund the project as part of his 2014-16 capital budget and program, due to be unveiled by April 15.

The county would borrow for the project, but college officials said state aid would cover 50 percent of construction costs.

However, the proposal comes as the county budget officials are forecasting a possible $250 million budget shortfall by the end of 2014.

Spokeswoman Vanessa Baird Streeter declined to say whether Bellone would back the project. "It's under review and no determination has been made," she said.

Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), deputy presiding officer, said he had not seen details of the project but "we're positive on the concept . . . Our future is in sustainable energy and the college should be in the forefront."

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a nonprofit alternative energy group, praised SCCC's initiative. "The clean energy and technology sector is a growing area of the economy and it's extremely important to have a trained skilled workforce" to build these systems, Raacke said.

School officials say they hope to open the center in the fall of 2015 and expect 260 students in the first year.


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