July 10, 2006

Albany NY Sets The Pace On For Cleantech And Semiconductors

By: by Jim Hurd, Director, NanoScience Exchange


I attended the New Energy Symposium in Albany, NY on June 23, 2006.  It was held at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and organized by New Energy New York (NENY), a consortium of more than 30 alternative-energy technology businesses.

Of the many speakers who updated the attendees on recent developments, below are three of note:

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced plans to create a new federal agency that would seek to cut U.S. foreign oil imports in half by 2015.  Schumer is calling for the creation of the National Energy Efficiency Development Administration, or NEEDA.  He said the agency would need $83 billion in funding over a 10-year period to develop new alternative-energy technologies, money he says should be reallocated from tax breaks given to major oil companies.

Pradeep Haldar, executive director of New Energy New York and director of UAlbany's Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center, said his group at the University has been working with the Senator on his proposal.

Schumer's plan would seek to reduce foreign oil imports by 5 percent by 2008, 20 percent by 2011 and 50 percent by 2015.  NEEDA would have several divisions, including incentives and venture capital units that would make money available to private companies developing technology innovations.  "We have to be first in the whole world," Schumer said. "We cannot just rely on the old technologies."

Schumer also said NEEDA would take over some responsibilities from the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation. He said he envisions NEEDA setting policy on automobile fuel efficiency, or CAFE standards. Schumer also proposed a new tax credit to promote ethanol production in New York and the creation of a commission to study updating state and local energy and environmental regulations to provide alternative-energy sources.

Attendees of the Symposium also heard from executives from leading New York state renewable energy companies including fuel-cell manufacturers Plug Power Inc. and MTI MicroFuel Cells Inc.

Plug Power is an leader in the deployment of clean, reliable, on-site energy products. More than 650 Plug Power fuel cell systems have been delivered to customers worldwide in commercial, public sector, telecommunications, utility and uninterruptible power supply markets.  Plug Power has recently completed a $217 million cash investment by the principal investors of Interros, a major Russian investment firm, and Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium.  The investment is being made through Smart Hydrogen, a joint venture of the principal Interros investors and Norilsk Nickel, which was formed to participate in the global hydrogen economy.

MTI MicroFuel Cells, a leading developer of micro fuel cell technology for handheld electronic devices, recently announced an exclusive alliance with Samsung Electronics Co. to develop next-generation fuel cell prototypes for Samsung´s mobile phone business.

The energy symposium ended a few minutes earlier than planned, as all participants moved over to the main rotunda where New York Gov. George Pataki and AMD Chief Executive Hector Ruiz announced a deal to build a $3.2 billion semiconductor chip plant.  The Sunnyvale microprocessor maker, attracted by about $1.2 billion in state subsidies from NY, has decided to locate the new $3.2 billion fab in Malta, about 25 miles north of Albany. The plant is expected to employ about 2,000 people and begin operations in 2010.  ``The Hudson Valley is going to be America's next Silicon Valley and we're well on our way to achieving that,'' Pataki said. 

When you add in the approximately $3.7 billion that has already been put together over the last four years for the Albany Nanotech initiative led by IBM, Tokyo Electron Limited, AMD, Infineon and the state of New York, both Silicon Valley, CA and Austin, TX are on notice that the Albany, NY region is positioning itself to become the U.S. technology center.  The race is on.