A new center to facilitate learning in growing fields. SUNY Morrisville recently completed construction on a 30,000 sq. ft., $16 million facility. The new Agricultural and Clean Energy Technology Center provides hands on learning.
The building houses renewable energy, agricultural engineering, and diesel technology programs.
“So as New York State has made a priority this effort to basically shift all of our electricity generation over to renewable sources, our students understand those systems from the ground up, they can install those systems, they can design those systems. And so as they leave here as a graduate and go work with one of the companies that's trying to help New York realize that vision, they've got the skill set to do that," said Associate Professor of Renewable Energy Benjamin Ballard.
“Be able to take the theory from lecture and really apply it well in lab now is a huge plus," said Steven Frerichs, a 3rd year renewable energy student. “Before we would have like two people working on a unit and then you have to shift the whole group. Where now we're able to all work on it together, all go over the same problems we're having and learn at the same time so you get more hands on experience.”
Part of the construction of the new building is placing towers inside to learn how to climb in a temperature controlled environment.
“Where then you'd have to go outside whether it be like negative five degrees out or 30 degrees and 30 mile an hour winds and climb towers. So in here, you really get to be comfortable with what you're doing before you have to go outside and test it," said Frerichs.
“Even if they've never had any mechanical background. We work from the beginning all the way through whatever makes the machine function," said Charles "Chip" Ax, professor of agricultural engineering and diesel tech.
One of the design aspects of the new ACET center includes higher ceilings.
"Our equipment has gotten to be much bigger. When our building down there was designed in the '60s, big farm equipment might have been 100 horsepower," said Ax.
“At this point in time there's no reason any of our graduates couldn't get a job. We actually have more employers contacting us than we have students to fill all those jobs," said Ballard.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine service techs, and solar panel installers are among the top 10 growing careers, with median income estimated between $46K and $56K a year.