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NYPA OK’s $2.2 million for Green Research Center

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POTSDAM — Clarkson University will put an unused building back to work thanks to a $2.2 million grant from the New York Power Authority.

The grant will renovate the Old Main building in downtown Potsdam to establish a green data center. The renovations include energy efficiency measures, including new windows and upgrades to plumbing and electrical systems.

“We’re creating a green building and a green data center,” said Anthony G. Collins, Clarkson University president. “So we’re getting a research and development benefit and putting a building back in use.”

The grant was originally given to The Beacon Institute For Rivers and Estuaries, a non-profit, to build a new facility on the Hudson River at Dennings Point.

The facility would construct and implement a River and Estuary Observatory Network made up of tiny robotic censors measuring water quality in real time and record and analyze the data from the censors.

In 2008, the institute became a subsidiary of Clarkson, initiating an effort to redirect the grant towards renovation the Old Main building. On Sept. 24, the NYPA Board of Trustees voted to approve the change.

“It made more sense to divert the funding,” Mr. Collins said. “We get Old Main restored, it is a larger facility closer to our campus.”

Mr. Collins said the institute’s work aims toward an affordable, real-time water monitoring system that could be implemented anywhere.

“The major rivers around the world are required to be for navigation, for drinking water, for recreation — if we are going to effectively use them, we need to be able to real-time monitor,” he said.

Furthermore, the censors could eventually be commercialized, leading to regional economic development, said Mr. Collins.

“We’re developing a technology that could potentially be commercialized, that is an important step for our campus and the region,” according to Mr. Collins. “These water monitors would be smaller and less costly than what has been implemented elsewhere.”

Mr. Collins was grateful that NYPA approved the grant change.

“NYPA has been a tremendous partner, they understand the importance of helping to support a sustainable infrastructure and world and they are also interested in supporting economic development,” he said. “They understand the importance of real-time water monitoring, we want to be a leader for water quality monitoring, they have supported us in that aim.”

Old Main was the first building constructed as part of the Thomas S. Clarkson Memorial School of Technology. The 106-year-old, 36,500 square-foot sandstone building was recently used as part of Clarkson’s Downtown Campus Business Center.

“We are very pleased to work with Clarkson University on the adaptive re-use of this beautiful old building and the incorporation of distinctly contemporary green materials and features, which are consistent with the statewide sustainability goals of Governor (Andrew M.) Cuomo,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO.

“Not only will the project restore a stunning turn-of-the-century building for generations to come, the planned research center will help establish New York as a center for water study and innovation.”

The renovations, costing $8 million in total, are expected to begin next year.

Staff writer Brian Hayden contributed to this story.

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