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New York is Investing in A Green, Clean-Energy Future, Powered by SUNY

Binghamton University professor shows students a solar panel setup on a rooftop.

Climate change is a growing concern across the country. Stronger storms, changing weather patterns, and more extreme results from seasonal temperature swings are having an effect on many factors of life, and especially so on industries. To help remediate the impacts of global warming, many organizations, companies, and state governments are looking toward clean and renewable energy as a way into the cutting-edge technologies in fields such as solar, wind, water, nuclear, geothermal, and bio-energy are coming forward each month. But for clean energy to truly advance and become a part of everyday life for all, a skilled workforce that can meet the needs of the clean energy revolution is needed. To meet these needs, a new $15 million investment was allocated for SUNY to take on two initiatives: funding the clean-energy workforce and also developing training programs on our campuses.

“As the federal government moves further away from responsible energy policy and clean energy production, New York is committed to fighting climate change and protecting our environment,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “We will continue to take bold action to promote clean energy across the state and support job growth in cutting-edge, renewable industries.”

Nearly $6 million was awarded to our campuses to train workers in the clean-energy sector, as well as $9 million through a partnership with the Department of Labor, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Empire State Development, and Industrial Development Agencies to develop programs throughout SUNY system. With applied learning experience, the programs give students many opportunities varying from the ability to go to Clean Energy Certification programs which give students credits that they may need for their degrees to expanding research opportunities that identity short and long term needs of the environment. 

The following list outlines what campuses were awarded funding and how they plan to use the funds:

  • Binghamton University will establish a Clean Energy Undergraduate Research Program within its Freshman Research Immersion program. The new clean energy program will provide a summer component, including research fellowships for under-represented minority students and internships with clean energy companies.
  • Buffalo State College will develop clean energy certificate programs in partnership with the New York Power Authority. Students will also be able to earn credits toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree through the certificate programs.
  • University at Buffalo will develop a Western New York Clean Energy Workforce Development program, featuring certification and micro-credentialing options, which may take the form of digital badges or other micro-awards. Both options will help today’s workforce meet business and industry expectations, as well as motivate and prepare well-rounded students with highly marketable skills.
  • SUNY Canton will enhance its Solar Ready Vets program on site at Fort Drum. The training provides a micro-credential program in renewable energy specifically for veterans transitioning to civilian life.
  • Erie Community College will examine its non-credit continuing education units for architects and engineers, as well as building and code inspectors, by including electrical/photovoltaic solar updates for curricula design.
  • Farmingdale State College will develop certificate and fast track training programs within its Renewable Energy and Sustainability Center to meet emerging needs of the clean energy industry. The Renewable Energy and Sustainability Center will partner with local industry to identify short- and long-term needs.
  • SUNY Maritime College will receive funding for two programs. The first, through its Offshore Energy Center, will develop a wind operations technician training program, as well as dynamic positioning training and certification courses for offshore vessel operators. The second will create a certification in partnership with the liquid natural gas industry. Coursework from the program will also be incorporated into licensing programs for licensed mariners.
  • Nassau Community College will develop new curriculum to include Energy Industry Fundamentals certificates.
  • SUNY Oswego will develop and enhance the campus’ energy laboratories to support the curriculum of multiple departments. The campus will also expand research and applied learning opportunities and strengthen collaboration and student transfer pathways between SUNY Oswego and Onondaga Community College.
  • SUNY Polytechnic Institute will partner with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and SUNY Oneonta to offer experiential learning opportunities for students to apply green building principles through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifying SUNY campus buildings. LEED Accredited Professionals will engage undergraduate students in the LEED Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance certification process and the LEED for Building Design and Construction via experiential learning projects tied to new courses.

A collective approach to clean energy

While the above list of campuses, programs, and initiatives are a great start, these efforts are just the beginning as many of our other schools will soon follow. All of these new developments fit in line with the work that has been taking place across SUNY for quite some time. With our 64 campuses, and around 600,000 students, SUNY has pledged to be actively involved in building a cleaner future.

In Chancellor Johnson’s 2018 State of the University System address, she shared plans to have SUNY utilize zero-net-carbon energy sources as soon as possible. We’ve also been at work on a pledge to improve energy efficiency performance by 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and by 40 percent by 2030, compared to 2015 baseline levels as part of Governor Cuomo’s executive orders.

Moreover, the efforts at increasing clean energy use and development need to be scaled to succeed. To bring together colleges and community, SUNY has paired with 15 leading universities as part of the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3).  The UC3 will follow a model that is meant to help local and regional communities achieve their goals towards a low-carbon future. These schools will set an example in pledging to reduce their institutional carbon footprints. The UC3 will also be working with Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network, a group comprised of hundreds of colleges and universities who have committed to take action on climate and prepare students through research and education to find solutions to 21st-century issues.

As the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, SUNY is dedicated to actively lead, create, and pave the way towards a greener future, and through our collective knowledge, talents, and hard work can make a difference. As best stated by Chancellor Johnson, “SUNY is proud to provide high-quality, hands-on, and the most up-to-date clean energy education and training to our students, building a diverse, preeminent talent pipeline for today and tomorrow’s clean energy industry in New York State.”

Across the whole SUNY system, there is a growing sense of pride in bringing along the solutions that will help bring us a more sustainable future.

    Written by Tiffanie Li

    Tiffanie is a Social Media Assistant Intern at SUNY System Administration. She is a senior at SUNY Albany double-majoring in Psychology and Communications.

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