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NYPA OK’s $2.2 million for Clarkson green data center

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POTSDAM — Clarkson University will put an unused building back to work with the help of a $2.2 million grant from the New York Power Authority.

The grant will go toward renovating the Old Main building in downtown Potsdam to establish a green data center. The renovations will employ energy efficiency measures, including new windows and upgrades to plumbing and electrical systems.

“We’re creating a green building and a green data center,” said Anthony G. Collins, Clarkson University president. “So we’re getting a research and development benefit and putting a building back in use.”

The grant originally was given to the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, a non-profit, to build a new facility on the Hudson River at Dennings Point.

The facility would have constructed and implemented a River and Estuary Observatory Network made up of tiny robotic sensors measuring water quality in real time, and recorded and analyzed the data from the sensors.

In 2008, the institute became a subsidiary of Clarkson, initiating an effort to redirect the grant toward renovating the Old Main building. On Sept. 24, the NYPA board of trustees voted to approve the change.

“It made more sense to divert the funding,” said Mr. Collins. “We get Old Main restored, it is a larger facility closer to our campus.”

Mr. Collins said the institute’s work aims toward an affordable, real-time water monitoring system that could be implemented anywhere.

“The major rivers around the world are required to be for navigation, for drinking water, for recreation — if we are going to effectively use them, we need to be able to real-time monitor,” Mr. Collins said.

“We’re developing a technology that could potentially be commercialized. That is an important step for our campus and the region,” he said. “These water monitors would be smaller and less costly than what has been implemented elsewhere.”

Mr. Collins was grateful that NYPA approved the grant change.

“NYPA has been a tremendous partner. They understand the importance of helping to support a sustainable infrastructure and world and they are also interested in supporting economic development,” he said. “They understand the importance of real-time water monitoring. We want to be a leader for water quality monitoring; they have supported us in that aim.”

Old Main was the first building constructed as part of the Thomas S. Clarkson Memorial School of Technology. The 106-year-old, 36,500-square-foot sandstone building recently was used as part of Clarkson’s Downtown Campus Business Center.

“We are very pleased to work with Clarkson University on the adaptive reuse of this beautiful old building and the incorporation of distinctly contemporary green materials and features, which are consistent with the statewide sustainability goals” of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “Not only will the project restore a stunning, turn-of-the-century building for generations to come, the planned research center will help establish New York as a center for water study and innovation.”

The renovations, costing $8 million in total, are expected to begin next year.

Johnson Newspapers writer Brian Hayden contributed to this report.

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