November 06, 2006

Players Plug In To Region

By: by Larry Rulison, Business Writer, Times Union


TROY -- Aldo Silvera works out of a small and bare one-room office here in the business incubator building on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute campus.

Once a week, Silvera leaves his home in Queens at about 4 a.m. to beat the traffic and make his way to Troy, where he spends two days a week.

After all, it's worth it to Silvera, who is in the early stages of building his alternative energy company, Hestia BioEnergy LLC, from scratch. The company is selling the idea of using gasification plants to industrial firms such as paper mills that want to turn their waste into electricity and steam.

But instead of focusing his energy in Queens, where Silvera also runs a medical supply business, he has chosen the Capital Region because of the emphasis here on alternative energy technologies, and the potential customer base he wants to tap, including the paper industry.

"There's a lot of exciting things happening in the region," Silvera said. "It's a really great place to be at this stage."

The Capital Region has become a hotbed for alternative energy companies and research. Albany is also home to New Energy New York, a consortium of alternative energy companies that is seeking to develop the industry.

Silvera doesn't have any customers yet, but he believes he is close to getting two. He is working with a California engineering company that would build the gasification plants, which cost between $17 million and $20 million. Hestia would put together financing and own them, making money on the revenue from the sale of power and steam back to the industrial users.

If it sounds strange that a man from Queens would decide to set up shop in Troy for a fledgling business, think again.

Michael Tentnowski, director of the Rensselaer Incubator Program, said Friday he just got off the phone with a potential tenant from San Diego, and that two of the incubator's current tenants moved from Silicon Valley.

"I think we're reversing a trend of mass departure from upstate New York," Tentnowski said. "It's really exciting."

Pradeep Haldar, director of the Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center, an energy research center at the University at Albany, says he first met Silvera, who's been in Troy since May, at the Clean Energy Alliance conference last month in Philadelphia.

Haldar is chairman of the national group and founder of New Energy New York.

He said Silvera located his business in Troy to be a part of the momentum being created in the local energy sector, and he said other companies are also coming.

"We are seeing that," Haldar said. "It's starting to happen."