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Learning About Solar Power and State Government

November 30, 2007

[ALBANY] – Students from three Sullivan County schools made a special field trip to Albany on November 15 to learn about green environmental practices in general and solar energy in particular.


The trip included 18 junior and senior high school students from Monticello, Fallsburg and Liberty, along with teachers and Sullivan Renaissance staff.  It included a visit to the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, and a meeting with state officials at the Capitol Building in Albany.


This educational opportunity is part of a Sullivan Renaissance initiative involving young people in the solar lamp post demonstration project in Sullivan County.  The Sullivan Renaissance Youth Program is funded in part through a grant from the Cappelli Foundation.  The trip was arranged and hosted by Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther.


LRC director of educational services Dan Frering, who heads the independent study for the solar lamp post demonstration project, provided a tour of his facility.  He explained the LRC mission and operations, and its role in the demonstration with Sullivan Renaissance.  He also provided a presentation on photovoltaic, solar, LED and other lighting related issues. 


A key element of student discussion was the idea that Sullivan County has an opportunity to be a leader in the area of “green” by incorporating sound environmental practices, and fostering partnerships among community groups, private business, independent research organizations and government.


Assemblywoman Gunther brought the students to the Assembly Speaker’s conference room where they met with Paul Tonko, President of New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA), the source of funding for the solar lamp post project.  Tonko explained the work of NYSERDA and the importance of the Governor’s “Green it Up” agenda, including: climate change; green and healthy communities; and connecting New Yorkers to nature.  He also discussed career opportunities and what he called “green collar” jobs. 


Ann Reynolds, director of policy for NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, gave a history of the environmental movement and explored the evolution of environmental laws from the 1970s.  She described how in the ’70s there were no environmental laws and anyone could dump anything in the rivers and water, resulting in a river that could run a particular color depending on what was dumped in it that week, or the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, which actually caught on fire.


Assemblywoman Gunther, Tonko and Reynolds also explained the legislative process and how ideas become law.  Students were reminded that schools are required to recycle under General Municipal Law; and that they must follow, at minimum, the municipality in which they are located. 


During meetings with Sullivan Renaissance, students shared the specific environmental interests of their schools.  Fallsburg would like to implement recycling; Liberty is interested in solar panels and has already done some research; Monticello is interested in composting and will also be planting trees in the spring.


Sullivan Renaissance is a beautification and community development program principally funded by the Gerry Foundation.  Youth participation is supported in part with grants from the Louis R. Cappelli Foundation, and Bank of America Charitable Foundation.  Additional funding has been secured by NYS Senator John J. Bonacic and Assemblywoman Gunther. 


For information, visit or call 845-295-2445.