year in review

Looking back: 5 most-read Houston solar energy stories of 2023

Major solar energy projects announce deals — and other top solar energy stories on EnergyCapital this year. Photo by Pixabay

Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, EnergyCapital is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston energy transition. Houston's really charged up about the impact of solar energy has on lowering emissions amid the energy transition. Several stories of solar project news and even a Q&A with a Houston solar executive resonated with readers this year — be sure to click through to read the full story.

DOE loans Houston company $3B for project that will provide solar energy to underserved communities

Houston-based Sunnova Energy has secured a loan from the Department of Energy. Photo via sunnova.com

A partial loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy will support more than $5 billion in loans for Sunnova Energy equipment and technology that’ll supply solar energy to underserved communities.

The $3 billion partial loan guarantee equates to a 90 percent guarantee of up to $3.3 billion in loans. In turn, Sunnova says, that’ll support more than $5 billion in loans to about 75,000 to 115,000 U.S. households. It’s said to be the largest single commitment to solar power ever made by the federal government.

At least 20 percent of the Project Hestia loans will be extended to customers with FICO credit scores of 680 or less, and up to 20 percent of the loans will be earmarked for homeowners in impoverished Puerto Rico. Read the full article from October.

Texas company secures $200M for solar project near Houston

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. Read the full article from September.

Houston solar exec says a major key to slowing climate change is offering energy independence

John Berger, CEO of Houston-based Sunnova, explains the importance of energy independence and solar's role in achieving it. Courtesy of Sunnova

Following extreme temperatures and increasing grid instability this summer, CEO and Chairman of the board of residential solar power service company Sunnova Energy Corp., John Berger, is encouraging individuals to take charge of their energy needs.

Berger founded the Houston-grown company back in 2012, before solar energy was seen as a hip, clean power source. Now, Sunnova (NYSE: NOVA) is a leader in residential solar installations.

In a discussion with EnergyCapital Berger broke down misconceptions about solar power, predicted the rise of the home as a power station, and highlighted the importance of energy independence. Read the full interview from September.

Global energy company opens solar farm outside of Houston

TotalEnergies' new solar farm outside of Houston is the size of 1,800 football fields. Photo via totalenergies.com

A global energy corporation has a new solar farm online and operating just outside of Houston.

TotalEnergies (NYSE: TTE) has started commercial operations of its new solar farm, Myrtle Solar, just south of Houston. The farm has a capacity of 380 megawatts peak of solar production and 225 MWh of co-located batteries. Spread across the space — which is about the size of 1,800 football fields — are 705,000 solar panels producing enough electricity to power 70,000 homes.

Seventy percent of the power generated will be sourced for TotalEnergies' industrial plants in the U.S. Gulf Coast region, and the remaining 30 percent will be used by Kilroy Realty, a publicly traded real estate company, per a 15-year corporate power purchase agreement. Read the full article from October.

BP breaks ground​ on Texas solar farm, plans to open it next year

BP's solar park is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2024. Photo via bp.com

British energy giant BP, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, has started construction on a 187-megawatt solar farm about 10 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.

The Peacock Solar facility will generate power for a nearby chemical complex operated by Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, a joint venture between Spring-based energy company ExxonMobil and SABIC, a Saudi Arabian chemical conglomerate whose products are used to make clothes, food containers, packaging, agricultural film, and construction materials. SABIC’s Americas headquarters is in Houston.

Gulf Coast Growth Ventures opened the plant in 2022. The joint venture says the ethylene cracker and derivatives complex, located northwest of the town of Gregory, employs about 600 people. Read the full article from October.

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A View From HETI

Paul Froutan has been named COO of Enchanted Rock. Photo via Enchanted Rock

Houston-based Enchanted Rock, which provides dual-purpose microgrids, announced that Paul Froutan has been named COO.

Froutan joined Enchanted Rock in 2022 as the chief technology officer. He will replace Thais Grossi, who served in the role for nearly eight years.

Froutan previously led Google's Global Data Center Operations and was responsible for managing Google's worldwide data center and server operations. He also served as the vice president of engineering for Rackspace Hosting, and holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

“Since joining Enchanted Rock, I've been impressed with the team's vast knowledge of natural gas microgrids and how that has been applied to deliver both customer resiliency and financial value," Froutan says in a news release. "Taking the next step and bringing technology, EPC, and O&M together under one umbrella will further improve our innovation feedback loop, which benefits our customers and the communities that rely on our services."

In his previous role with the company, Froutan was responsible for GraniteEcoSystem, Enchanted Rock's microgrid management software, and the launch of the company's advanced natural gas generator initiative. Froutan will lead the product engineering, EPC, and operations and maintenance teams.

"Paul has helped take the technology and intelligence powering our solutions to the next level, and we are pleased that he has accepted this expanded role," Thomas McAndrew, CEO of Enchanted Rock, says in a news release. "His understanding of emerging technologies and operational excellence, paired with his extensive experience leading high-performing teams, make him an excellent choice to continue our commitment to deliver customer-focused solutions. We are also extremely grateful for Thais' dedication to the Enchanted Rock team and our customers."

Enchanted Rock's electrical microgrids use natural gas and renewable natural gas to help produce lower carbon emissions and air pollutants than diesel generators,and are capable of achieving resiliency with net-zero emissions. The company recently received a $2.1 million grant from the California Energy Commission for development of technology aimed at reducing greenhouse gasses and other natural gas emissions. Enchanted Rock will share the grant with the University of California Riverside, or UCR.

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