shine on

Houston nonprofit flips switch on solar panel project thanks to sustainability grant

A Houston nonprofit's farm will soon be completely off-grid, running its entire operation on sustainable resources. Photo courtesy of Hope Farms

A Houston-area farm is one step closer to operating completely off-grid thanks to new solar panels installed with funding provided by a grant.

In a step towards a greener future, Hope Farms, a 7-acre farm operated by a Houston nonprofit organization, Recipe for Success Foundation, unveiled 18 new solar panels on Tuesday. This significant move is part of a collective effort to completely transition the farm to solar power, demonstrating its commitment to sustainability.

“The industry (solar power) itself is intimidating to people,” Gracie Cavner, founder and CEO of Hope Farms and Recipe for Success, tells EnergyCapital. “Part of our work is to inspire people to replicate what we're doing. We want to show that things aren't as hard as you think they are.”

The nonprofit organization is recognized in Houston for its work in addressing childhood obesity, with a long held mission of demystifying the common misconceptions around healthy eating. It is now tackling another challenge: dispelling the myth that solar power implementation is difficult. Hope Farms' latest initiative will not only further its energy independence, it will also show that adopting renewable energy, similar to embracing healthy food choices, is a feasible option.

The 18 solar panels will power the farm's composting toilet facility and all of the electricity used in its barn, which acts as its market stand and kitchen. Its next green phase is fast approaching and will implement solar panels on top of its flower studio, where the farm's internet and security systems reside. Its final phase will install a water well pump.

“We really did a lot of direct learning,” Cavner said. “We worked directly with solar engineers, not somebody with a company that benefited from us making one decision or another. I feel like more people would have solar if they realized they could do that.”

This is not the first green step Hope Farms has taken thanks to a Green Mountain Energy Sun Club grant, and certainly not the last. Last year, the farm cut the ribbons to its rainwater capture system that now saves roughly 95,000 gallons of water per year by capitalizing on the city’s abundant rainfall.

Since the farms beginning in 2016, it has relied on solar, even when it was only fields lit by a few lights. Soon, Hope Farms will be completely off-grid, running its entire operation on sustainable resources.

“With this expansion, I feel like it’s going to be taking the rock out of the middle of the river,” Cavner said. “It’s going to open up this train and make it easier for anybody to jump in and do it. The first step is kicking the door open and making more people want to pursue it.”

Hope Farms installed 18 solar panels and already has plans to add more. Photo courtesy of Hope Farms

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A View From HETI

Grace Rodriguez (left) and Juliana Garaizar have partnered up — along with their teams — to collaborate on the Equitable Energy Transition Alliance and Lab. Photos courtesy

A group of Houston's innovation and energy leaders teamed up to establish an initiative supporting equitability in the energy transition.

Impact Hub Houston, a nonprofit incubator and ecosystem builder, partnered with Energy Tech Nexus to establish the Equitable Energy Transition Alliance and Lab to accelerate startup pilots for underserved communities. The initiative announced that it's won the 2024 U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, or GAFC, Stage One award.

"We are incredibly honored to be recognized by the SBA alongside our esteemed partners at Energy Tech Nexus," Grace Rodriguez, co-founder and executive director of Impact Hub Houston, says in a news release. "This award validates our shared commitment to building a robust innovation ecosystem in Houston, especially for solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals at the critical intersections of industry, innovation, sustainability, and reducing inequality."

The GAFC award, which honors and supports small business research and development, provides $50,000 prize to its winners. The Houston collaboration aligns with the program's theme area of Sustainability and Biotechnology.

“This award offers us a great opportunity to amplify the innovations of Houston’s clean energy and decarbonization pioneers,” adds Juliana Garaizar, founding partner of the Energy Tech Nexus. “By combining Impact Hub Houston’s entrepreneurial resources with Energy Tech Nexus’ deep industry expertise, we can create a truly transformative force for positive change.”

Per the release, Impact Hub Houston and Energy Tech Nexus will use the funding to recruit new partners, strengthen existing alliances, and host impactful events and programs to help sustainable startups access pilots, contracts, and capital to grow.

"SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Stage One winners join the SBA’s incredible network of entrepreneurial support organizations contributing to America’s innovative startup ecosystem, ensuring the next generation of science and technology-based innovations scale into thriving businesses," says U.S. SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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