By Business First of Buffalo

Power Drives Inc. has been awarded $250,000 in funding from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority as part of a 14-month joint demonstration project with the agency for PowerHouse, a new diesel warming technology to be used on 11 locomotives.

The product also reduces noise and air pollution, and saves fuel by eliminating idling locomotive engines.

During cold weather, locomotives are often kept running continuously to keep engines from freezing, which wastes diesel. PowerHouse equipment allows operators to shut down a locomotive while keeping the engine warm and without fear of freezing the engine fluids, which can reduce fuel consumption and related emissions. The technology also reduces emissions and noise pollution, a concern for communities near railroad tracks.

According to a statement from NYSERDA, this technology is currently being used by large railroad freight companies, but such products have proved expensive for small ⿿short line⿝ railroad companies. Short lines carry freight from interstate train lines to local customers, serving railroad routes considered too small by the larger freight operators. New York is home to 29 separate short line operations, which collectively own and operate 42 percent of the overall railroad infrastructure within the state.

The 14-month demonstration project will test two different models that warm the engine by heating and circulating radiator fluid. One device runs off an external electrical plug, while the other runs off an onboard diesel generator.

Power Drives is headquartered at 133 Hopkins Street in South Buffalo. Company President and CEO Louis Panzica said PowerHouse units have been installed on most of the 11 short line locomotives, and that the 14-month project should be complete sometime in April or May.

Among those at the Thursday event were Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo, and NYSERDA President CEO Francis Murray. Also in attendance was Erie County Executive Chris Collins, who referred to Western New York as ⿿A community of small businesses like Power Drives.⿝ Collins also credited companies like it for being innovative and keeping the unemployment rate among the lowest in New York.

The 11 locomotives are operated by six New York state short-line railroads which, along with Power Drives, matched the $250,000 funding to add $161,962 to the project, which is about half complete.

⿿All we⿿re waiting for now is cold weather to test the products in,⿝ he said.

Panzica said that while the company has data from the products being used by large railroad freight companies, third-party data will verify his, and jobs could possibly be added.

At the completion of the 14-month process, Panzica said, ⿿We⿿ll be able to hit our stride with product sales.⿝

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