as the experts say

Report: Texas is the best place to lead hydrogen economy

According to a new report, the existing energy infrastructure of Texas makes it a great spot to lead the development of the hydrogen economy. Photo via Getty Images

All signs point to Texas leading the development of a hydrogen market, says one new report out of Rice University.

The Baker Institute for Public Policy released a new report this week about the hydrogen economy and the role Texas will play in it. According to the experts, Texas’ legacy energy industry — as well as its geology — makes it an ideal hub for hydrogen as an energy source. Ken Medlock, senior director of the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies, and Shih Yu (Elsie) Hung, research manager at the center, wrote the report.

“Texas is in a very advantageous position to play a leading role in driving hydrogen market growth, but the evolution of policy and market structure will dictate whether or not this comes to pass,” write the co-authors.

Medlock and Hung make the case for hydrogen's impact on the energy transition in the report.

“It can be produced in a number of different ways — including steam-methane reforming, electrolysis and pyrolysis — so it can leverage a variety of comparative advantages across regions,” they write.

The report explains that — with the state's existing and robust oil and gas infrastructure — Texas is the best spot to affordably develop hydrogen while managing economic challenges. Plus, Texas's coastal geology is an advantageous spot for storage and transport.

One factor to be determined, write the authors, is whether or not the policy will support the industry's growth.

“(Hydrogen’s) expansion as an energy carrier beyond its traditional uses in industrial applications will depend heavily on significant investment in infrastructure and well-designed market structures with appropriate regulatory architectures,” they write. “A lack of either will risk coordination failure along hydrogen supply chains and, thus, threaten to derail any momentum that may currently be building.”

GTI Energy and The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation funded this report.

Last summer, the Center for Houston's Future reported how Houston-based assets can be leveraged to lead a global clean hydrogen innovation. The Houston region already produces and consumes a third of the nation’s hydrogen, according to the report, and has more than 50 percent of the country’s dedicated hydrogen pipelines. These assets can be utilized to accelerate a transition to clean hydrogen, and the report lays out how.

"Using this roadmap as a guide and with Houston’s energy sector at the lead, we are ready to create a new clean hydrogen economy that will help fight climate change as it creates jobs and economic growth,” says Center for Houston’s Future CEO Brett Perlman. “We are more than ready, able and willing to take on these goals, as our record of overwhelming success in energy innovation and new market development shows.”


This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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A View From HETI

The project will take over more than 1,000 acres of former farmland about an hour outside of Houston. Photo via Getty Images

An Austin-based company has scored $200 million in financing for a solar energy project it’s building in Liberty County.

Recurrent Energy’s 134-megawatt Liberty Solar project, about 50 miles northeast of Houston, is scheduled to start operating in 2024. The facility will occupy more than 1,000 acres of former farmland about six miles south of Dayton.

Last year, Recurrent Energy indicated the project represented an investment of $155 million, according to paperwork filed with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The company lined up $120 million in financing through Rabobank, Nord LB, and U.S. Bank in the form of construction debt, a letter-of-credit facility, and a term facility. In addition, U.S. Bancorp Impact Finance, a subsidiary of U.S. Bank, is providing $80 million in tax equity.

“Liberty Solar is the second project financing that Recurrent Energy has closed in North America this summer, indicating execution on our strategy to retain greater ownership of projects in select markets,” Ismael Guerrero, CEO of Recurrent Energy, says in a news release.

Recurrent Energy announced in May 2023 that it had signed purchase agreements for all of the Liberty County site’s solar power capacity. The Austin company, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar, says Liberty Solar will generate enough energy to power an estimated 15,000 homes per year.

The five companies that agreed to buy the solar power are:

  • San Francisco-based software company Autodesk
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Biogen
  • Semiconductor manufacturer EMD Electronics, the North American electronics business of Germany-based pharmaceutical giant Merck
  • Boston-based home goods retailer Wayfair
  • An unidentified healthcare company

The Recurrent Energy project will expand solar capacity in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) region, which includes most of Liberty County. The nonprofit organization manages electricity in 15 states and Canada’s Manitoba province.

The solar project is outside the territory of the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees the power grid for about 90 percent of Texas.

Recurrent Energy already operates solar projects in California and Mississippi as well as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

The Liberty Solar project isn’t the only solar facility being developed in Liberty County.

Spanish renewable energy company X-ELIO said in February 2023 that it had begun construction on a 60-megawatt battery energy storage system in Liberty County that it’s pairing with a 72-megawatt solar energy facility. The two projects are being built on the same site.

The solar energy project, set to start operating in early 2024, will support ERCOT’s energy needs in the Houston area. X-ELIO says the project represents an investment of more than $130 million.

Power generated by the facility will be sold to BASF, a chemical conglomerate based in Florham Park, New Jersey. Any surplus energy will be stored by the battery system. BASF maintains its regional petrochemical headquarters in Houston and a chemical manufacturing plant in Pasadena.

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