June 03, 2011
By: by Eric Anderson, Business Editor, Times Union
ALBANY -- National Grid is helping to fund a program that could accelerate the use of rooftop photovoltaic panels to provide power to the electric grid.
The London-based utility presented a check Thursday for $225,000 to help pay for the $1.35 million solar demonstration initiative at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
Researchers will install panels and collect data that should allow increased deployment of the technology on the rooftops of homes and businesses. The research should allow the power produced by the panels to be smoothly integrated into the electric grid.
The National Grid money comes from its Renewable Energy and Economic Development program, which supports sustainable energy research, commercialization and manufacturing across upstate New York.
On hand for the presentation was Ken Daly, the recently appointed president of National Grid's New York state operations.
"Supporting expanding technology in renewable energy makes National Grid's local grant an investment that will spread the benefits even beyond the region," Daly said.
The college already is becoming a focus for solar energy research. In April, the U.S. Department of Energy said it would award it $57.5 million to establish a solar panel manufacturing consortium similar to the Sematech consortium in the late 1980s that boosted the nation's semiconductor industry.
With private-sector matches, that figure is expected to swell to $400 million.
Alain E. Kaloyeros, senior vice president and CEO of the college, welcomed the National Grid grant.
"This investment will serve to accelerate CNSE's growing portfolio in solar energy technologies, which hold great promise for reducing energy consumption, protecting the environment, and generating economic growth to benefit all New Yorkers."
Earlier, Daly talked about the importance of New York state to National Grid.
"National Grid loves New York," he told an audience of business and economic development leaders. "We're certainly here to stay."
Some investment analysts have suggested in recent weeks that the utility might be looking to sell its New York business.
Daly said the utility's 11,000 employees in New York state are more than it employs in the entire United Kingdom, where it is based. New York also represents 60 cents out of every dollar the utility collects in rates.
Daly also defended the utility's grants for economic development and renewable energy research, saying that they can create jobs and, in the long run, keep rates down.
He spoke briefly about the damage the utility was repairing in neighboring Massachusetts, where tornadoes struck Springfield and nearby towns Wednesday, killing three people.
The company has sent dozens of repair crews from New York to help restore power to 40,000 customers. Of those, 17,000 were back on line Thursday.