Long Island’s new economic energy might come from a corner of Stony Brook University — if we can power its growth.
Tucked among Stony Brook’s bustling incubators and research labs is the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, a 49,000-square-foot facility filled to capacity with researchers and a half dozen companies that are the seeds of an industry that could be key to the region’s future.
Too often, Long Island plays catch up, trying to latch on to industries, or jobs, or development ideas that already are thriving somewhere else. But at the energy center, researchers and newly minted entrepreneurs are ahead of the curve, creating companies connected to the renewable energy industry, considering fresh ideas, not ones already mulled and finding ways to commercialize what hasn’t yet been commercialized.
That gives the region a head start on the renewable energy industry sure to grow enormously in the coming years. State and local officials now must help keep the momentum.
Already, the center has been named as the base for a multistate offshore wind consortium, which will be funded with $39 million in federal and state grants. But the center’s researchers and companies are working on more than wind. They’re developing everything from a thermal heat pump that can be both a heater and air conditioner in one, to a generator that’s powered by ocean waves, something Long Island has in abundance.
Nurturing a fledgling renewable energy industry here starts with the center at Stony Brook. But since it’s already full, its key advocates, chairman Robert Catell and Yacov Shamash, who heads Stony Brook’s economic development efforts, are hoping to expand it. There are already a host of entrepreneurs and others waiting for a chance to grab a piece of such an expanded space.
Catell and Shamash are seeking an additional $25 million investment from the state — likely in economic development dollars through Empire State Development — for a 25,000-square-foot expansion. That expansion has been designed, thanks to a previous infusion of Regional Economic Development Council funds. Now, it’s a matter of building it.
The state already has made a clear commitment to the Island’s renewable-energy and other research efforts, contributing $20.5 million to the consortium through New York State Energy Research & Development funds, and earlier this year, promising an additional $72 million in state funds to various Long Island life sciences research sector efforts. An energy center expansion fits well with those goals. Future operational costs, meanwhile, will be paid for by the rent that the tenants pay — costs that are competitive since the building itself is built as an energy-saver.
It’s time to make a power play to energize the Long Island economy for decades to come.