According to a report, In the fourth quarter, Texas is expected to add about 3.7 gigawatts of solar capacity — more than the combined total for the previous three quarters. Photo via Getty Images

When all the numbers are tallied, 2023 should be a very sunny year for solar installations in Texas.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, SEIA, and energy research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie predict Texas will be the top state for solar installations in 2023. In the fourth quarter, Texas is expected to add about 3.7 gigawatts of solar capacity — more than the combined total for the previous three quarters.

In 2021, Texas added nearly 6.07 gigawatts of solar capacity, with that figure falling to more than 3.66 gigawatts in 2022. But for 2023, SEIA and Wood Mackenzie anticipate Texas having added almost 6.24 gigawatts of solar capacity for residential, business, and utility customers.

A report released last week by SEIA and Wood Mackenzie indicates that sales volume for solar installations has declined in Texas and some other states due in part to higher costs for financing solar equipment. Solar sales volume in Texas started dropping off in late 2022 and has continued to shrink, says the report.

Wood Mackenzie forecasts 13 percent growth for the U.S. residential solar market in 2023. The report predicts the U.S. will have added 33 gigawatts of residential solar capacity in 2023, up from a record-setting 6.5 gigawatts in 2022. The U.S. added 6.5 gigawatts of residential solar capacity in the third quarter of 2023 alone, says the report.

“Solar remains the fastest-growing energy source in the United States, and despite a difficult economic environment, this growth is expected to continue for years to come,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “To maintain this forecasted growth, we must modernize regulations and reduce bureaucratic roadblocks to make it easier for clean energy companies to invest capital and create jobs.”

Solar accounted for nearly half (48 percent) of all new electric-generating capacity during the first three quarters of 2023, bringing total installed solar capacity in the U.S. to 161 gigawatts across 4.7 million installations. By 2028, U.S. solar capacity is expected to reach 377 gigawatts, enough to power more than 65 million homes.

“The U.S. solar industry is on a strong growth trajectory, with expectations of 55 percent growth this year and 10 percent growth in 2024,” says Michelle Davis, head of solar research at Wood Mackenzie.

“Growth is expected to be slower starting in 2026 as various challenges like interconnection constraints become more acute,” she adds. “It’s critical that the industry continue to innovate to maximize the value that solar brings to an increasingly complex grid. Interconnection reform, regulatory modernization, and increasing storage attachment rates will be key tools.”

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3 Houston sustainability startups score prizes at Rice University pitch competition

seeing green

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

ExxonMobil's $60B acquisition gets FTC clearance — with one condition

M&A moves

ExxonMobil's $60 billion deal to buy Pioneer Natural Resources on Thursday received clearance from the Federal Trade Commission, but the former CEO of Pioneer was barred from joining the new company's board of directors.

The FTC said Thursday that Scott Sheffield, who founded Pioneer in 1997, colluded with OPEC and OPEC+ to potentially raise crude oil prices. Sheffield retired from the company in 2016, but he returned as president and CEO in 2019, served as CEO from 2021 to 2023, and continues to serve on the board. Since Jan. 1, he has served as special adviser to the company’s chief executive.

“Through public statements, text messages, in-person meetings, WhatsApp conversations and other communications while at Pioneer, Sheffield sought to align oil production across the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico with OPEC+,” according to the FTC. It proposed a consent order that Exxon won't appoint any Pioneer employee, with a few exceptions, to its board.

Dallas-based Pioneer said in a statement it disagreed with the allegations but would not impede closing of the merger, which was announced in October 2023.

“Sheffield and Pioneer believe that the FTC’s complaint reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the U.S. and global oil markets and misreads the nature and intent of Mr. Sheffield’s actions,” the company said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was “disappointing that FTC is making the same mistake they made 25 years ago when I warned about the Exxon and Mobil merger in 1999.”

Schumer and 22 other Democratic senators had urged the FTC to investigate the deal and a separate merger between Chevron and Hess, saying they could lead to higher prices, hurt competition and force families to pay more at the pump.

The deal with Pioneer vastly expands Exxon’s presence in the Permian Basin, a huge oilfield that straddles the border between Texas and New Mexico. Pioneer’s more than 850,000 net acres in the Midland Basin will be combined with Exxon’s 570,000 net acres in the Delaware and Midland Basin, nearly contiguous fields that will allow the combined company to trim costs.