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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    AERTC, A New Solar Powered Building, Just Across the Street

    ‘Imagine you are collecting rain water on your roof to power your toilet,’ said Jim Smith, the director of the New York state center for advanced energy research and technology. This is a possibility at Stony Brook, Smith said, with the development of the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC), a research facility dedicated to pursuing alternative energy possibilities, currently in the design phase at Stony Brook University.

    Global climate change has become an accepted reality. Scientists have foretold terrifying possibilities if sea levels continue to rise.

    On Nov. 7, the undergraduate college of information and technology studies presented a lecture dedicated to issues concerning sustainable energy in the future including environmentally friendly alternatives. The lecture focused on both long and short term solutions to energy consumption in the US. The goal for future energy use, Smith said, was to leave ‘as small a carbon footprint or impact on the environment as possible.’

    Worldwide energy consumption has increased, especially in developing countries such as China, Smith said. In the US, consumption of energy has increased while production has deteriorated in the last decades. Less than 50 years ago, people believed that oil was an unlimited resource, so ‘we used it up somewhat inefficiently without regard to the environment,’ Smith said.

    He added that most analysts estimate another 20 to 40 years before the oil reserves all dry up. ‘We are coming to a close on the availability of energy,’ Smith said. ‘We have to take steps to fix this quickly’hellip;.very quickly.’

    According to the US Department of Energy, in 2006, 40 percent of the energy use in the US was petroleum, followed by natural gas and coal at 23 percent. Only seven percent of US consumption of energy was renewable, consisting of solar, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric and wind energy sources.

    Solar energy represents only one percent of this figure, meaning 0.07 percent of all the US consumption of energy is solar powered. Wind energy, through the mechanism of windmills, represents four percent of renewable energy, resulting in 0.28 percent of all US consumption, which is far behind many other countries such as the Netherlands, with 43 percent of their energy consumption in wind energy.

    Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, a professor from the department of materials science and engineering and the chief scientist involved with the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, said [we] ‘want to produce energy but also consider what is good to the environment.’

    In fact, Long Island is 99 percent dependent on oil to generate electricity, Smith said. He continued by saying one of the three ‘biggest obstacles to greater economic success’ LI business leaders identified was energy consumption.

    Smith continued the lecture with the current technology associated with solar power including the three different kinds of solar panels available. Unfortunately, current renewable energy sources are still more expensive to produce. Solar power is ‘the perfect antidote to the problem except for the cost,’ Smith said.

    In search for a solution, Stony Brook formed the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center. It will be located across from Stony Brook road in the newly acquired land dedicated to the research and development park.

    The research and development park, over 246 acres of land, was purchased through state funding. The land will be utilized to create ten buildings housing development projects. The first is the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technologies, already under construction. The second is the AERTC, which the university received a 35 million allocation from the state.

    The AERTC will achieve a platinum rating for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED). The LEED designation distinguished the AERTC as conforming to the highest level of energy sustainability administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington D.C.-based, nonprofit coalition of building industry leaders. Only 25 buildings have a LEED platinum rating within the country. The AERTC will be the second in the NY state, following second to the Queens Botanical Gardens Platinum Visitors Center, which opened only two weeks before. The AERTC will also be solar powered.

    Stony Brook has made other initial steps into environmentally safe solutions. Of the 37 buses that currently serve the campus, five of them run on biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel fuel is a renewable fuel made by a chemical process involving alcohol and vegetable or animal oils, fats and grease. It is made through a refinery process, called transesterification, removes the glycerin-a byproduct that can damage your engine. Biodiesel fuel reduces carcinogenic emissions and gases compared with petroleum oil.

    Throughout the lecture, Rafailovich stressed the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork to find solutions for future energy crises.

    The problems of the future, Smith stated, ‘[are] up to your generation to fix.’

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