Wind, sunlight, and plenty of time outside were discussed in a panel on Thursday afternoon. No, this was not the Student Association deciding where to go next Spring Break; rather, the talk was about careers in sustainable energies.
The panel was filled with four Western New Yorkers who have devoted their lives and money to sustainable energy industries. Dave Bauer, Martin Casstevens, Thomas Fleckenstein and Paul D. Vargovich Sr. were all invited to discuss the strides they have made in their respective green industries.
"[The panel] offered a lot of great, real-world advice on starting industries in the green business as well as people to contact," said Ryan Green, a senior electrical engineering and chemical engineering major. "I really hope they have more of these."
Bauer, a sustainability consultant and former high school environmental sciences teacher, spoke of starting his own consulting firm after retiring from teaching. Sustainable Earth Solutions works to advise companies, such as Perry's Ice Cream, how to take more green innovations into their business plans.
Fleckenstein and Vargovich both spoke of starting their own companies, Niagara Wind & Solar and National Solar Technologies, respectively. Fleckenstein concentrates on agricultural wind energy, while Vargovich looks into industrial solar energy.
"I'm really interested in alternative fuels such as biodiesel, solar and wind," said Sarah Lavin, a senior biology and geology double major. "I feel I got a lot of great resources like websites and names so I can look into my career."
The liveliest subject dealt with growth in green industries. Recently, according to Vargovich, the U.S. government has mandated that products used in government energy production, such as power generation on a temporary military base, must be manufactured in the United States. This would be a great advantage right now because most parts of solar panels are made in China and India.
Another growth factor in WNY has to do with legislation making its way through state government right now that would allow organizations such as Buffalo Public Schools to place wind turbines and solar panels in the mostly-abandoned areas of the First Ward. Not only would energy bills be slashed for BPS, but it would also allow the school system to sell the energy back to Niagara Mohawk.
"Nuclear is probably finished as an industry," Fleckenstein said. "After what's going on in the [Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant] in Japan, four reactors in Germany have already been shut down."
All four of these men were also recruiting for their companies at this meeting. Casstevens, Fleckenstein and Vargovich are eager for engineering interns that are open to a career. Bauer is interested in communication majors and the like to help promote what his company does.
For students who missed this panel, there is a similar one dealing with environmental success stories that will be held in Baird 220 on April 19 at 7 p.m.