By Elana Knopp, originally published in New Project Media on April 22, 2020.

New York’s innovative clean energy concept in Buffalo’s East Side can be replicated elsewhere, developers say

A Buffalo neighborhood is getting a new lease on life with the creation of an innovative clean energy hub.

The Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC), in partnership with Empire State Development, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the City of Buffalo, is redeveloping five industrial complexes across 35 acres into 5 MW of clean energy and battery storage that will include a microgrid system, a community solar project, and upgrades to an existing substation.

The Northland Corridor Redevelopment Project, located in the City’s East Side neighborhood, also aims to redevelop the complexes–many of them vacant for a quarter of a century– into employment opportunities for residents with the creation of a new manufacturing hub.

The Northland Corridor originally developed as a manufacturing center along the New York Central Belt Line, and is one of the most extensive industrial areas in the state. 

Creating jobs and innovation

The project will be initially anchored by the Workforce Training Center (WTC), which will focus primarily on training for careers in the advanced manufacturing and energy sectors.

The project’s substation, a plug and play system that can be expanded to 15 MW of clean energy and storage, will provide electricity to businesses located within the Northland Corridor. 

The substation, which dates back to the early 20th century, will also be used to train people interested in the green energy and engineering fields as part of the WTC.

The WTC will be funded with USD 29m from the state’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, along with USD 15m from NYPA.  

In 2014, the Buffalo Billion Initiative awarded funding to acquire 50 acres of vacant or underutilized land and more than 700,000 square feet of industrial buildings in the Northland Corridor. 

BUDC Board Member Dennis Elsenbeck, who serves as the Head of Energy & Sustainability at Phillips Lytle LLP, told NPM that the state has been on a mission to revitalize the area. 

“Gov. Cuomo has been trying to bring these parts of Buffalo back to life,” Elsenbeck said. “Northland is typical of many rust belt neighborhoods in that the collapse of industry leaves behind communities that relied on local industry for jobs, small business activities and all other support services. Our approach is to align community revitalization, climate-related objectives and workforce development with economic development to form sustainable economic and environmental solutions. From a community point of view, we can develop 100 percent load factor–whatever we produce there, we consume there. Think of the pressure it takes off of new infrastructure. It has this kind of cool ripple effect. It’s more of a market-driven view.”

David Stebbins, Vice President of BUDC, told NPM that the first phase of the project will likely come online later this year, with the first two components to be capacity upgrades to the substation.

The project is expected to help the state meet its ambitious climate targets while creating a green energy economy in the region.

“We wanted to look at creative solutions,” Elsenbeck said. “For us we think the benefit is developing green manufacturing jobs, not only to help us achieve our Climate Act goals but also to develop an entirely new ecosystem so that we are competing at the global climate level. If we are not building manufacturing jobs in the green economy then we are simply paying others to do it for us. What I think we’re going to be producing are the very people who can implement the climate act from our local neighborhoods. This is a different kind of perspective. This is the kind of perspective that we think we can replicate anywhere, in any rust belt state because guess what? We all look the same. It’s the same scenario.”