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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.

“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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A View From HETI

A View From UH

ACCEL has opened applications for next year. Photo via Getty Images

Calling all cleantech startups founded by innovators of color — an inclusive accelerator program is now accepting applications.

Advancing Climatetech and Clean Energy Leaders Program, or ACCEL, has opened applications for it's second cohort. The program — from Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space — provides access to funding, networking connections, incubation space, mentorship, resources, and opportunities for energy tech founders of color for a year.

“ACCEL is one of the most impactful, meaningful programs we’ve run to date,” Greentown Labs CEO and President Kevin Knobloch says in a news release. “We are eager to expand upon the great success and momentum of year one, and to welcome another incredible cohort of BIPOC-led startups that are developing much-needed climatetech solutions. We’re equally committed to helping these companies accelerate and deploy their solutions, while also helping to build a more diverse, inclusive climatetech workforce—ACCEL sits at the nexus of those two critical efforts.”

The program, supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, accelerated six startups this year — Active Surfaces, DrinKicks, EarthBond, florrent, frakktal, and SpadXTech.

“The ACCEL Program directly aligns with our mission to ensure that climatetech jobs and wealth creation opportunities are available to all residents of the Commonwealth,” Emily Reichert, CEO at MassCEC and former CEO at Greentown, says in the release. “We are excited to see the second round of this important program, with our Equity Workforce Fund support fostering a partnership between Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space aimed at accelerating the growth of minority and women business enterprises in Massachusetts.”

ACCEL, which doles out $25,000 in non-dilutive grant funding to each participant, is also supported by Boston-based Barr Foundation and provides programming from VentureWell, a nonprofit with expertise in climatetech.

“Through our partnership with Greentown and VentureWell, we are able to put our respective strengths together to create an ambitious program to bolster founders of color in climatetech and propel innovations that benefit communities most impacted by climate change,” Kerry Bowie, executive director and president of Browning the Green Space, says in the release. “Opening applications for Year 2 of ACCEL is an important milestone in strengthening critical support for traditionally excluded entrepreneurs in our communities.”

Applications for ACCEL are open until January 5, 2024. While entrepreneurs from anywhere can apply, preference will be given to applicants in Greater Boston and Greater Houston, where Greentown’s incubators are located.

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