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Solar is what Floats New Boats, with Funding Help from NYSERDA

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August 22, 2012

Solar is what Floats New Boats, with Funding Help from NYSERDA

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor


This week, the Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company officially celebrated the start of the assembly of its ten-passenger, solar-assisted electric pontoon boat for recreational use, known as the Loon. The company, which moved from Ontario, Canada, to Rome, New York, more than a year ago, has received approximately $300,000 in business incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Tamarack, which spent the last year working on several prototypes and setting up networks with suppliers, has started assembling the boats at its headquarters on the Erie Canal. The company currently occupies 3,000 square feet in a former warehouse and hopes to expand to as much as 10,000 square feet. Its business plans call for manufacturing up to 100 boats per year. 

“It was a dream come true for us to come to Rome and be a part of the Renaissance taking place along the shores of the historic canal, and NYSERDA helped make that happen,” said President of Tamarack Montgomery Gisborne. “Now that we’ve got our production up and running, we look forward to continue to grow and play a role helping to grow New York’s cleantech economy.”

The Loon has a 50-mile range and a cruising speed of about eight miles per hour, which is typical for this type of boat. The boat’s batteries are charged by a photovoltaic array built on the roof of the pontoon vessel, which can be lowered for easy ground transport.

“It makes perfect sense. When do you go boating? You go boating on nice sunny days. That means you’ve got great opportunity to go solar and that’s what this boat is all about,” Gisborne told ABC News.

“Tamarack is exactly the kind of company we hope to attract to New York State. It is using renewable energy technology to produce cleaner transportation, and is providing an economic boost and creating jobs in upstate New York,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., president and CEO of NYSERDA. “Under Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s leadership, the support of innovative research and technology will help increase the use of solar power in New York and expand the state’s clean energy economy.”

Tamarack’s presence is part of a citywide Renaissance in Rome, with well over $10 million in public and private funds invested in more than a dozen projects, ranging from trails and boat launches to investment in streetscapes and business facilities. Tamarack itself is located at the Rod Mill, which has seen $1.3 million in state funding to change a turn-of-the-century mill into a modern industrial space.

Tamarack Boat is also working with the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. and New York State Canals to explore possible partnerships.

“The New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. and our Green Innovation Grant Program are proud to be part of Rome’s Brownfield Opportunity Area and the reuse of the former Rod Mill industrial site,” said EFC president and CEO Matthew Driscoll. “Together with NYSERDA, the Canal Corp. and other state agencies, the Environmental Facilities Corp. is helping the City of Rome to restore a polluted brownfield into a productive, eco-friendly environment for business and the public. There could be no better symbol of this green turnaround than the Tamarack solar-powered boats that will be produced here in Rome.”

EFC’s $660,000 Green Innovation grant will create a parking area between Harborway and the Erie Canal which will be constructed with pervious paving and rain-absorbing gardens to capture stormwater and reduce water pollution. This parking area will lead to a new boat launch, which will be constructed with a $225,000 grant from the New York State Canal Corp.

Brian U. Stratton, director of the New York State Canal Corporation, said, "In keeping with the rich history and tradition of the Erie Canal, we are proud to see this waterway serve as the backdrop for this new enterprise, and for Governor Cuomo’s support of innovative state and local partnerships that ensure the economically and environmentally sound future of the Mohawk Valley region and upstate New York."

Each boat will sell for about $40,000.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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