arts meets energy transition

Sustainable sculpture to power Houston multicultural arts building

The City of Houston is aiming to have Arco del Tiempo installed in 2024. Photo courtesy of The City of Houston

The City of Houston has unveiled the first look at the latest permanent public artwork that will be installed in the Second Ward in 2024. The sculpture is the first-ever environmentally sustainable art piece that will generate electricity for the nearby City-owned Latino multicultural performing arts theater.

Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) is a 100-foot tall arch designed by Berlin-based artist and architect Riccardo Mariano. Several years have been put into the making of this project, dating as far back as 2019. Mariano had entered the idea into a Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) design competition in the Houston sister-city of Abu Dhabi. From there, it was chosen to be developed full-scale and installed at Guadalupe Plaza Park.

According to a press release, the sculpture can measure time and cast beams of sunlight onto the ground, creating a connection between "the celestial and the terrestrial" through the geometry of the design.

The light beams are different based on the four seasons and the time of day, constantly shifting and responding to the latitude and longitude of the city from space. Mariano said that his sculpture is a "practical example" of how physical art can interact with the abstract, such as the Earth's movement around the sun.

"The apparent movement of the sun in the sky activates the space with light and colors and engages viewers who participate in the creation of the work by their presence," said Mariano. "Arco del Tiempo merges renewable energy generation with public space and into the everyday life of the Second Ward. Inspired by science and powered by renewable energy, the artwork is a bridge between art and technology and encourages educational purposes while improving public space. At night the space within the arch will be used as a stage for outdoor public events.”

"At night the space within the arch will be used as a stage for outdoor public events,” Riccardo Mariano said.Photo courtesy of The City of Houston

Arco del Tiempo will do more than just be an aesthetically pleasing sight for the community. Its meaningful, functional purpose will be to generate about 400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, and power the Talento Bilingüe de Houston. LAGI founding co-director Elizabeth Monoian said in the release the sculpture will generate over 12 million kilowatt-hours of power throughout its lifetime, which equals the removal of 8,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"Through the clean energy it produces, Arco del Tiempo will pay back its embodied carbon footprint," Monoian said. "In other words, all the energy that went into its making—from the smelting of the steel to the drilling that puts the final cladding into place—will be offset through the energy it generates. Beyond its break-even point, which we will track and celebrate with the community, the artwork will be a net-positive contributor to a healthy climate and the planet will be better off for its existence.”

In a statement, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner praised the unique art piece as more than just a sculpture, but as a "monument to a new era of energy."

"The City of Houston has always stood at the vanguard of energy innovation and the Arco del Tiempo artwork stands in that tradition, highlighting Houston’s role as an art city and as global leader in the energy transition," Mayor Turner said. "We are inspired by the vision and creative thinking. Marrying clean energy, the built environment, and truly World Class art is Houston.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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A View From HETI

After recently divesting from wind and solar energy initiatives, Shell has plans to quadruple EV charging stations in the next several years. Photo via shell.com

As it downshifts sales of fuel for traditional vehicles, energy giant Shell is stepping up its commitment to public charging stations for electric vehicles.

In a new report on energy transition, Shells lays out an aggressive plan for growing its public network of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The company plans to boost the global number of public EV charging stations from about 54,000 today to around 70,000 by 2025 and about 200,000 by 2030.

The projected growth from today to 2030 would represent a 270 percent increase in the number of Shell-operated EV charging stations.

“We have a major competitive advantage in terms of locations, as our global network of service stations is one of the largest in the world,” Shell says in the report.

Shell’s global network of service stations is shrinking, though. In the report, the company reveals plans to close a total of 1,000 gas stations in 2024 and 2025. Today, more than 45,000 Shell-branded gas stations are located in over 90 countries.

Aside from Shell gas stations, the company’s Shell Recharge business unit operates public EV charging stations along streets, at grocery stores, and at other locations in 33 countries.

Shell, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, is ramping up its EV charging network amid forecasts of slowing demand for oil and rising demand for EVs. Other than EV charging, Shell is focusing on biofuels and integrated power as components of its revamped product mix.

“Shell is well positioned to become a profitable leader in public charging for electric vehicles, meeting the growing demand from drivers who need to charge on the go,” the report says.

To accelerate its EV charging presence in the U.S., Shell in 2023 purchased Volta, a San Francisco-based operator of EV charging stations. Shell says it now operates one of the largest public EV charging networks in the U.S., with more than 3,000 charging points in 31 states and another 3,400 under development.

“The availability of charging points will be critical for the growth in electric vehicles,” the report says.

Last month, Shell divested from a solar energy subsidiary, before later announcing an exit from a wind energy joint venture.

"In-line with our Powering Progress strategy, Shell continues to hone our portfolio of renewable generation projects in key markets where we have an advantaged position," Glenn Wright, senior vice president at Shell Energy Americas, said in a news release at the time.

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