(Not so) sunny news

New report throws shade on Houston's renewable energy use in 'solar cities' ranking

Sunny Houston fails to place on Thumbtack's new list. Photo by Adrian N on Unsplash

As the cost of solar panel installation becomes more attainable to homeowners, more Americans are willing to reduce their carbon emissions and their electricity bills in the process.

So just where does Houston rank in new tech like solar panel installation? According to a new report from home service management platform Thumbtack, it doesn't.

Houston, which has no shortage of sun — as residents are well aware — fails to place in Thumbtack's new list of the top 15 most "solar" cities in the United States.

Austin leads the way for Texas, ranking the No. 3 most “solar” city in the U.S., per Thumbtack. Austin, with the highest net-new solar panel installations within the past year in Texas, splits up four Californian cities in the top five. Only San Diego (No. 1) and Los Angeles (No. 2) outranked Austin.

San Antonio follows not behind atNo. 9 and just outside the top 10 is Dallas-Fort Worth at No. 11.

For the curious, Texas Property Code 202.010 forbids homeowner associations from restricting the installation of solar panels, so any Texas homeowner can do it as long as they follow the standard procedure for “improving” their home to comply with a separate state law.

Thumbtack home expert David Steckel said in a press release that they chose to focus the report on cities with the most new solar installations because they wanted to “celebrate those [cities] making the biggest change.”

“When we looked at all solar projects – from installations to modifications, repairs, consultations and more – we found that unsurprisingly, California dominated the list with 9 out of the top 10 spots – given their long-term commitment to and adoption of solar energy," he said. "We really wanted to celebrate cities that are seeing a shift in behavior.”

The top 10 most “solar” cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – San Diego
  • No. 2 – Los Angeles
  • No. 3 – Austin
  • No. 4 – Palm Springs, California
  • No. 5 – San Francisco
  • No. 6 – Las Vegas
  • No. 7 – Phoenix
  • No. 8 – Orlando
  • No. 9 – San Antonio
  • No. 10 – Tampa, Florida

Steckel said the company has seen a year-over-year increase of up to 96 percent in solar energy projects among consumers for March 2023.

“We recently found that 71 percent of Americans are prioritizing sustainable, energy-efficient home improvement projects this year – with more than one-third of Americans planning to install solar panels in 2023 – showing an accelerating change in consumer behavior,” he said.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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A View From HETI

The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to Rice University. Photo via Rice.edu

A team of Rice University physicists has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Physics for their work in high-energy nuclear physics and research into a new state of matter.

The five-year $15.5 million grant will go towards Rice physics and astronomy professor Wei Li's discoveries focused on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), a large, general-purpose particle physics detector built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, a European organization for nuclear research in France and Switzerland. The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to a statement from Rice.

Li's team will work to develop an ultra-fast silicon timing detector, known as the endcap timing layer (ETL), that will provide upgrades to the CMS detector. The ETl is expected to have a time resolution of 30 picoseconds per particle, which will allow for more precise time-of-flight particle identification.

This will also help boost the performance of the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC), which is scheduled to launch at CERN in 2029, allowing it to operate at about 10 times the luminosity than originally planned. The ETL also has applications for other colliders apart from the LHC, including the DOE’s electron-ion collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

“The ETL will enable breakthrough science in the area of heavy ion collisions, allowing us to delve into the properties of a remarkable new state of matter called the quark-gluon plasma,” Li explained in a statement. “This, in turn, offers invaluable insights into the strong nuclear force that binds particles at the core of matter.”

The ETL is also expected to aid in other areas of physics, including the search for the Higgs particle and understanding the makeup of dark matter.

Li is joined on this work by co-principal investigator Frank Geurts and researchers Nicole Lewis and Mike Matveev from Rice. The team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas.

Last year, fellow Rice physicist Qimiao Si, a theoretical quantum physicist, earned the prestigious Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship grant. The five-year fellowship, with up to $3 million in funding, will go towards his work to establish an unconventional approach to create and control topological states of matter, which plays an important role in materials research and quantum computing.

Meanwhile, the DOE recently tapped three Houston universities to compete in its annual startup competition focused on "high-potential energy technologies,” including one team from Rice.

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