By Maureen Werther
A Saratoga Springs company has submitted a proposal to Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) outlining an ambitious two-phase plan to convert the vacant Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility into an energy research park.
It would include several small power plants and surrounding infrastructure representing a $2 billion investment, said Mark L. Adams, Ph.D. and CEO of Global Energy Research Associates (GERA) based at 340 Broadway.
In 2014, in response to the declining prison population, the state closed the medium-security prison, resulting in a loss of 320 full-time jobs with an estimated loss of $14 million in annual wages. The state is working through ESDC to find buyers for the site. They are offering an $8 million incentive package as part of its effort to attract bidders.
GERA’s plans include the creation of a two-phase energy and research development facility, using a nuclear-powered internal engine, which Adams said is the only prototype of its kind. The internal engine is powered using radioactive waste material and creates no exhaust. The engine serves a dual purpose of disposing of radioactive waste in a clean and efficient manner, while producing its own energy.
“There is no ancillary waste with this system,” said Adams, adding that GERA’s engine operates at efficiencies greater than 70 percent.
He said one plant using the internal nuclear engine will power 420,000 homes and consume only one gallon of radioactive waste every two weeks, which translates into enormous cost savings to business and private consumers.
Adams said the energy generation and research facility would be the only one of its kind in the world. Investors are waiting for state approval to begin construction.
Phase I of the plan would involve preparing the former prison site and buildings to generate investment and deliver a fully operational energy research park within three years. Phase II would create jobs by targeting the areas of clean energy and energy-efficient research and development, defense semi-conductor research and development, and clean electric power generation, according to the proposal.
Part of Phase I involves renovation of existing buildings and converting them to LEED-certified green buildings. Best practices in the design and construction of environmentally sound stormwater management and ecological connectivity are also built into the plan.
The plan also includes creating enhancements to what is called the “Grant Cottage visitor experience.”
“We put a lot of effort into this part of the plan and, depending on our funding, we would like to re-create an electric locomotive to transport people to and from the cottage,” said Adams. He said that, in 1883, the first electric locomotive traveled between Saratoga Springs and Mt. McGregor.
The plan states that, by the time Phase I is complete, nearly 30,000 gross square feet of mixed-use space and surrounding landscape will be incorporated into the operational energy research park.
Phase II is expected to create approximately 2,500 full-time permanent jobs, as well as approximately 1,500 full-time construction jobs that GERA estimates will continue for more than a decade. The plan also states that, overall, more than 9,000 jobs will be created across the state as a benefit of the energy park, generating well over $1 million in annual revenue, and a combined total of more than $2.4 million to Saratoga County and New York state.
He said that the state has the highest prices for electricity in the country.
Because the state also has a wholesale electricity market, the lowest price wins. With the high-efficiency and low operational costs, GERA would be poised to provide energy to surrounding businesses and homes. Adams envisions opportunities for companies like GlobalFoundries and others to expand their existing operations and tap into the new energy resource the park would provide.
Adams, who has worked for the U.S. Department of Energy, holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT. He received his undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech.
Adams does not have a date from the state as to when they will make their decision.