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Solar Convention Shines Light on Buffalo-Niagara's Green Economy Potential

By Joyce Kryszak


Buffalo, NY – Buffalo elected and business leaders say Buffalo isn't such an odd choice for the 2009 solar conference.

It was ironic. Snow was swirling from the gray skies overhead when organizers made the announcement Wednesday. But it was bright and warm inside the Burchfield Penney Art Center where dozens of local energy advocates came to celebrate the news that the 2009 National Solar Energy Conference will be held in Buffalo.

The museum is one of only three in the country that is LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certified. Walter Simpson is co-chair of the Western New York Sustainable Energy Association. He said the museum is just one of many examples why Buffalo is a logical place for the conference.

"If it [solar] works here - and it does - it will work anywhere," said Simpson.

The conference ends with "Public Day," featuring solar-themed exhibits and projects from all over the region. People might be surprised to learn there are many successful green projects and businesses - from solar boats to solar design.

Ecology and Environment in Lancaster will show off its building, the oldest building in the world to get LEED certification. But that is not all they have to show off. E&E president Keven Neumaier said green jobs are real.

"This year, despite the bad economy, we are adding 15% more jobs here in western new york and around the world," said Neumaier. "Renewable energy is just growing as a market segment for us 60 some percent."

And more green jobs could be coming. Thomas Kucharski is president of the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. He says the BNE has some really hot leads on companies that are interested in setting up green technology businesses in the region.

"To give you an idea the range is between $280 and $450 million each, with the potential to create between 400 and 600 jobs," said Kucharski.

Elected leaders said the new industries could transform the region from "Rust Belt" to "Green Belt." Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said it is time the region reclaimed its place as an energy leader.

"After all, Niagara Falls was the Silicon Valley of its day," said Dyster.

And just for the record, officials want people to know that Buffalo is pretty bright. It has more sunny days per year than Atlanta, Charlotte, D.C. or Philadelphia.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod. Joyce Kryszak - WBFO News.