Energy Conference Experts Tout Off the Grid Technologies

June 13, 2012

Old Westbury,NY – The challenges of providing power, water, and shelter to poverty-stricken areas or regions hit by disaster are formidable yet possible to overcome, experts agreed yesterday at New York Institute of Technology's annual energy conference.

In wide-ranging discussions about "off the grid" power, water, and shelter solutions for both developed and developing nations, panelists highlighted the intersection of technology with questions about emergency preparations and adequate natural resources.

Dr. Edward Gotfried of NYIT's Center for Global Health took conference attendees on a visual tour to Haiti and Ghana, where NYIT medical students and faculty provide healthcare in rural areas. Engineering students have also traveled to those areas to work on projects that would bring energy and clean water to medical clinics.

"There's a certain synergy that develops when you take other disciplines with you," Gotfried said. "There's an interconnectedness to all of this."

Panelists touted new technologies in water purification, including some powered by solar energy, and shelters with sanitary systems that can help prevent the spread of disease.

"Solar's making a big impact," said David Schieren (M.S., '06),noting that the industry is expected to have a 34% growth rate in the next five years. "We're out of the gate and we're buiilding momentum."

Panelist Ram Venkatadri of Pall Corporation described success stories of his firm's membrane water filtration technologies powered by solar panels. In Ndiaffate, Senegal, a unit was able to remove excess fluoride and produce water that met World Health Organization guidelines.

Mickey Ingles, vice president of operations at New Jersey-based World Water & Solar Technologies, said 800 million people do not have access to clean water. In addition, small rural water systems serving much of the United States are aged and may not comply with existing or future water regulations. His firm, which has worked in Iraq, Darfur, Haiti, and Afghanistan, has developed stand-alone solar powered water purification systems.

Two key aspects to success, he noted, are financial and community support.

"That's number one for making a system sustainable—the community needs to buy into it," Ingles said.

Stephen Boyd of Aufbau Labs, a renewable energy company in Glen Cove, was the sole expert on nuclear power. He discussed molten salt nuclear reactors as an alternative to traditional energy sources.

"We keep relying on fossil fuels," he said. "This to me is unacceptable."

David Abecassis, president of Biogard, Inc., a Long Island firm, introduced the conference attendees to three pollution remediation products for water and soil. Abecassis is working with NYIT to collect data resulting from tests conducted with the company's products.

"There's an academic side to what we're doing in publishing, research, and expertise so we can target our work effectively," said Abecassis.

As part of the shelter issues panel, NYIT Assistant Professor Jason Van Nest described a School of Architecture and Design project that "upcycles" plastic bottles and the pallets on which they are delivered to form shelter roofs. Steve Apelman of Macro Electronics Corp. stressed the need for shelters that provide security and sanitation facilities in disaster-stricken areas. His company's shelters were among those deployed to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Other speakers stressed the need for emergency preparedness measures for homes and businesses. Rich Rotanz of the Applied Science Foundation for Homeland Security noted that the metropolitan area has emergency operations centers to deal with law enforcement, power, communications, and environmental issues after disasters. But he advised the audience members that they should consider their own measures—from safeguarding legal papers to having medicines available—to help ensure safety and security after a disaster.

"Anything and everything might disrupt power," said Hollice Stone of Stone Security Engineering, who discussed large-scale government responses to natural disasters and terrorism. "Always expect the unexpected. You have to be prepared and able to be flexible with how you respond."

Yesterday's conference marked the seventh year that NYIT has held a gathering of energy experts to discuss current issues for audiences of students, academic leaders, business developers, and energy professionals. The conference was organized by a committee of NYIT faculty members, including: Robert Amundsen, Sarah Meyland, Gregory Banhazl, Stanley Greenwald, Laurence Silverstein, and John Eff.

About NYIT

New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) offers 90 degree programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, in more than 50 fields of study, including architecture and design; arts and sciences; education; engineering and computing sciences; health professions; management; and osteopathic medicine. A non-profit independent, private institution of higher education, NYIT has 14,000 students attending campuses on Long Island and Manhattan, online, and at its global campuses. NYIT sponsors 11 NCAA Division II programs and one Division I team.

Led by President Edward Guiliano, NYIT is guided by its mission to provide career-oriented professional education, offer access to opportunity to all qualified students, and support applications-oriented research that benefits the larger world. To date, 92,000 graduates have received degrees from NYIT. For more information, visit

Elaine Iandoli
Office of Communications and Marketing