On a sweltering August day this past summer, congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act—which began in the House of Representatives as the better-known “Build Back Better Act”—committing hundreds of billions of dollars in funding to address climate change. In turn, the IRA is expected to create new jobs and encourage the domestic production of clean energy.
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The act, which was sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, is already making waves here in the Hudson Valley. Shortly after it was signed into law by President Biden, Zinc8 Energy Solutions, the manufacturer of a “unique patented zinc-air battery technology,” declared its intention to establish its inaugural commercial production facility in the United States as a “direct result” of the IRA’s passage. Senator Schumer proposed a site in his home state: iPark87, formerly the IBM campus in Kingston. “Zinc8 is the jolt of electricity the Hudson Valley needs,” the senator asserts, “and is proof positive that when you invest in fighting climate change you are investing in creating good-paying jobs, new economic growth, and a brighter future for our communities.”
Subsequently, on January 26, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that Zinc8 will “lease approximately 237,000 square feet of warehouse and outdoor space” to establish its United States headquarters and nexus of manufacturing operations, research, and development at iPark87. In a separate statement, Ron MacDonald, CEO and President of Zinc8, says, “We’re excited by the level of support and interest we’ve received towards locating a manufacturing facility and creating jobs in the state of New York,” in reference to the IRA as well as a grant of up to $9 million in tax credits awarded by the state via the Excelsior Jobs Program. MacDonald continues, “These incentives have made it logical for us to select New York State for our first manufacturing facility.”
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But before jobs, growth, or a bright future can invigorate the Empire State, the Environmental Protection Agency has some cleaning up to do at iPark87. Since IBM halted operations at the Kingston industrial park in 1995, “a history of failures [has] led to the deterioration of the site,” creating “hazardous environmental conditions due to improper demolition of asbestos-containing materials,” according to a statement on Ulster County’s official website. Senator Schumer views the cleanup as an appropriate first step towards the region’s emergence as a leader in clean energy technology. “As the EPA officially begins cleanup of this once-contaminated asbestos dumping ground, I can think of no better way to usher in a renaissance for Ulster County than by making this the foundation for supercharging the fight against climate change,” he stated in a press release.
An additional challenge facing National Resources, the real estate company that owns iPark87, is housing and local culture. In an article for Hudson Valley One, Crispin Kott relays Ulster Town Supervisor James E. Quigley III’s observation that the surrounding locale is “a bedroom community for IBM employees, many of whom took early retirement when the facility closed in 1995 and stayed in the area.” To incentivize the relocation of prospective employees, National Resources plans to construct a 600-unit net-zero carbon footprint sustainable residential community—the first of its kind in the United States—complete with “public amenities like pocket parks, bike and walking trails, and a wellness and arts center” onsite.
These developments come as Zinc8 endeavors for commercialization in an industry—and political climate—increasingly concerned with renewable energy. “By bringing long-duration energy storage manufacturing to the state’s growing green economy, Zinc8 is advancing the next frontier of battery technology that will help New Yorkers access renewable energy when they need it most,” says Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “This new facility will not only advance Zinc8’s product market development—it will also create local good-paying jobs, grow our innovation supply chain, and serve as another tool to fight the impacts of climate change.”
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