Texas A&M University-Central Texas announced Thursday a partnership it hopes will foster innovation and education in the fields of renewable energy and solar technology.
University President Marc Nigliazzo and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp rolled out A&M-Central Texas’ collaboration with the Center for Solar Energy, which is seeking to create a hub of research, evaluation, development and testing of emerging solar technologies in Central Texas.
“We are here to launch a bold initiative that we believe will have a state, national and even global impact,” Nigliazzo said.
The center is being developed in partnership with the California-based solar company PPA Partners, and will create an “incubation” program, with the goal of creating early-stage solar technologies and attracting investors willing to bring that technology into the marketplace.
“Our mission is to discover, promote and champion American-originated solar technology,” said Bruce Mercy, the center’s executive director.
Plans for the center include the creation of an 800-acre incubation and demonstration site in Bell County that will house a massive assortment of solar and photovoltaic technologies. The site will be used to collect data and to create, test and demonstrate new technologies as well as power the university’s campus.
Mercy said the center will create a program that will recruit entrepreneurs and bring them to Central Texas. There they will not only be able to develop new technologies, but will go though a rigorous program that will train them in areas such as engineering, marketing and manufacturing with the goal of taking their ideas from concept to market within two years.
“We want to support and validate these innovators,” Mercy said.
In addition to developing curriculum for certificates and later degrees in solar and photovoltaic technology, Nigliazzo said the center would also work with the university’s other departments, including business and computer science.
He also noted that local community colleges such as Central Texas College and Temple College currently offer courses in solar energy and claimed they, too, would benefit from the partnership.
“The (center) will not only accelerate research and curriculum development at A&M-Central Texas, it will extend collaborative opportunities across the educational spectrum to universities and agencies within the Texas A&M University System, as well as to our regional community college partners and school districts.”
Mercy said the center would lure and keep solar energy entrepreneurs in Central Texas, possibly creating new jobs.
“Ideally, Central Texas will become a corridor for clean technology,” Mercy said.