Local company is working to clear the air worldwide
New York state's economic development programs have been faulted for failing to create the jobs promised. But the program has had some success - including attracting a company to Buffalo that now controls thousands of wind turbines around the world.
Sentient Science, a technology company that got its start in Idaho, moved to its new home, on Delaware Avenue, in 2013.
"We had maybe four people. We then went to 12, 25, 50. And now we're just about to hire our 100th employee in four years. So it's been fantastic," said Ward Thomas, President and CEO of Sentient Science. He says, Senator Charles Schumer prodded him to relocate.
"You know I hadn't thought of it. What's going on in Buffalo since I was a kid in Toronto? And we came here and we saw. We met everybody. And it was just absolutely an exciting energy of young people that we wanted to be a part of that energy. And we have seen just such a difference, in the short period of time we've been here, how Buffalo is just transforming in front of our eyes," Thomas said.
It's happening, in part, he says, because of the investments made in infrastructure. And a large piece of it is on the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus - where the company has access to the thousands of processors at UB's Center for Computational Research. He says that's important because the company is super-computer intensive.
"We lower the cost of renewable energy below that of coal," Thomas said.
They're able to do that with the software they developed. It produces digital models of moving parts, which Thomas says, Sentient Science uses to increase the lifespan of wind turbines from 8 years to 30 years.
"And we're able to produce that 22 years of additional life all from the models that are created with the microprocessors that are here below us." Thomas is also quick to credit the graduates coming out of the University at Buffalo. "The talent coming out of this university is world-class and absolutely critical," Thomas said.
Improving the performance of wind turbines has lowered the cost of energy they produce by 13% of revenue.
"A wind turbine produces $300,000 a year of revenue, of energy. We're able to take $39,000 out of that cost which is taking it below the price of coal," Thomas said.
And that kind of return is what's fueled Sentient Science's growth. Thomas says right now the company's DigitalClone software is running one out of ten wind turbines around the world.
"Live wind turbines, in China, are running on processors right below our feet. Who would have thought that that would be in Buffalo? Right? Well, first of all, who would have thought that the Chinese would let their energy infrastructure come to the United States? Let alone Buffalo? Let alone UB? Let alone the processors below our feet? That's pretty cool."
And Thomas says, that he is fortunate, and humbled, that the infrastructure exists to help a company like Sentient Science be more successful in Buffalo than in California.