Hundreds of people from across the state interested in the future of renewable energy will gather in East Syracuse on Friday for the 14th annual Symposium on Energy in the 21st Century that comes during what organizers are calling an exciting time in the industry. Symposium Director Rhea Jezer said they’ve always tried to be on the cutting edge.
“14 years ago, at our first Symposium, we actually had to bring a solar panel for people to look at, and they were amazed because no one knew what a solar panel looked like. We’ve come a long way since then,” said Jezer.
She said Solarize Madison County emerged from that first symposium, and solar has been growing on smaller and larger scales ever since. The state is aiming to have solar, wind, water, and geothermal generate 50% of electricity by 2030. Right now, it’s at 27%. Alicia Barton is president and CEO of New York State energy research and development authority, or NYSERDA, and will be the keynote speaker. She said like solar, the capacity of wind turbines has made significant advances.
“GE has recently announced that they are producing a 12 megawatt turbine, and turbine they expect to be able to scale up over time from 12 to 14 to 16 megawatts. The idea of a 16 megawatt individual wind turbine is something I would literally I would have not imagined just five years ago,” said Barton.
That’s more than five times the generating capacity of earlier turbines. Barton said combine that with dramatic advances in...and declining cost of battery technology to store that energy, and it forms a more resilient, modernized power grid. She said this significant transition in how we make and use energy has to come with a changing mindset.
“It’s not just confined to the transition of swapping out one type of power plant for another. It is a systematic wide spread change from smart devices in the home to generating more electricity on site for example with solar, to participating in new types of arrangements like community solar gardens,” said Barton.
Both Barton and Jezer said constant innovation and advances also have positive economic implications.
“This energy transition brings along with it incredible opportunity for job growth in the state," said Barton. "That sector of the economy, although it’s small today, is growing as high as seven percent in the years ahead.”
“The jobs of the future are going to be in renewable energy,” said Jezer.
Jezer said that includes students, who have a new and growing interest in the industry because of their concern about climate change. Registration ends Thursday at energy symposium 21.org.