Thursday, May 14, 2009

Buffalo poised to display its green side to 3,000 visitors

By Stephen T. Watson

If you believe our poor meteorological reputation, bringing a solar power conference to Buffalo is like talking about snow removal in Phoenix or preparing for hurricanes in Minneapolis.

But Buffalo this week hosts one of the largest national conferences on solar and other renewable energy sources, and that’s not a punch line for a joke in a Jay Leno monologue.

In fact, organizers say the Solar 2009 National Conference offers a chance for an expected 3,000 out-of-towners to see that this region is a hotbed of activity in renewable energy and green jobs.

“We need to be put on the map for a little bit more than snow,” said Edward E. Hogle, who is building student housing in Black Rock that will use solar energy and boilers running on grease and vegetable oil.

A number of businesses that offer green products and services have sprouted up here in recent years, and experts say this region can be a center for the nation’s emerging green economy.

Companies, schools and local governments also are working to become environmentally friendly, taking advantage of solar and wind power to operate more efficiently.

“People say, ‘Why Buffalo?’ It only makes sense for Buffalo, because of our strategic location,” said Marika Woods-Frankenstein, cultural and environmental development coordinator for the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts.

The conference, in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, will show off local green projects, including wind turbines, solar panel arrays and Hogle’s green housing.

And if you think this a stretch for a place perceived as a frozen landscape 10 months of the year, think again. We have more sunny days annually than Rochester, Syracuse — and Orlando, Fla.

“Buffalo has been called the sun capital of the Northeast,” said Adam Rizzo, president of Solar Liberty, a Williamsville company that installs solar systems.

Interest in the Solar 2009 conference is sky-high, said Neal Lurie, American Solar Energy Society spokesman. With about 5,000 people expected, the Buffalo event will have the biggest crowd in the conference’s 38 years, he said, “which is impressive when you consider last year we were in San Diego.” More here.

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