Ten energy tech companies in Houston are among 111 organizations to receive up to $250,000 in vouchers from the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, totaling $9.8 million in funding. Photo via Getty Images

Ten Houston-area companies will receive vouchers from the Department of Energy's latest round of funding to support the adoption of clean energy tech.

The companies are among 111 organizations to receive up to $250,000 in vouchers from the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, totaling $9.8 million in funding, according to a release from the department.

The voucher program is in collaboration with the Offices of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). It is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“It takes a breadth of tools and expertise to bring an innovative technology from research and development to deployment,” Vanessa Z. Chan, DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, says in a statement. “The Voucher Program will pair 111 clean energy solutions with the support they need from expert voucher providers to help usher new technologies to market.”

In addition to the funding, the program seeks to help small businesses and non-traditional organizations gain access to testing facilities and third-party expertise.

The vouchers come in five different opportunities that focus on different areas of business growth and support:

  • Voucher Opportunity 1 (VO1) - Pre-Demonstration Commercialization Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 2 (VO2) - Performance Validation, Modeling, and Certification Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 3 (VO3) - Clean Energy Demonstration Project Siting/Permitting Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 4 (VO4) - Commercialization Support (for companies with a functional technology prototype)
  • Voucher Opportunity 5 (VO5) - Commercialization Support (for developers, including for-profit firms, that are working to commercialize a prototype that fits a specific technology vertical of interest for DOE)

The 10 Houston-area companies to receive funding, their voucher type and projects include:

  • Terradote Inc. with Big Blue Technologies Inc. (VO2): Full ISO-Compliant Life Cycle Assessment for Clean Energy Technologies
  • Solugen Inc. and Encina with ACTion Battery Technologies L.L.C. and Frontline Waste Holding LLC (Vo2): Barracuda Virtual Reactor Simulation, Validation and Testing
  • Flow Safe with Concept Group LLC and Precision Fluid Control (VO2): Durability Testing of Hydrogen Components, Materials, and Storage Systems
  • Percheron Power LLC (VO4): Fundraising Support
  • Capwell Services Inc. with Banyu Carbon Inc. (VO5): Field Testing Support for Validation of Novel Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Syzygy Plasmonics with Ample Carbon PBC, Terraform Industries, Lydian Labs Inc. and Vycarb Inc. (VO5): Rapid Life Cycle Assessment for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Solidec Inc. with GreenFire Energy (VO5): LCA Calculator Tool for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Encino Environmental Services LLC with Wood Cache, Completion Corp and Carbon Lockdown (VO5): Realtime Above/Underground Gas Monitoring Reporting and Verification, Including Cloud Connectivity for Remote Sites
  • Mati Carbon PBC with Ebb Carbon Inc. (VO5): Community Benefits Assessment and Environmental Justice

Other Texas-based companies to receive funding included Molecular Rebar Design LLC and Talus Renewables from Austin, Deep Anchor Solutions from College Station, and ACTion Battery Technologies LLC from Wichita Falls.

Last October, the DOE also awarded the Houston area more than $2 million for projects that improve energy efficiency and infrastructure in the region.

In December, its Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations also selected a Houston power company for a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project cost-sharing agreement.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Report: Solar tops coal in Texas for energy generation for the first time

by the numbers

For the first time in Texas, according to a recent report, solar energy generation surpassed the output by coal.

The report — from the Institute For Energy Economics and Financial Analysis — sourced the Energy Information Administration’s hourly grid monitor for March 2024. This shift in a predominantly oil and gas dominated history of Texas energy output, was due to solar power’s 3.26 million megawatt-hours to Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid, compared to coal’s 2.96 million MWh.

In addition, coal’s market share fell below 10 percent to 9 percent for the first time ever, to just over 9 percent. The increase in solar energy pushed solar’s share of ERCOT generation to more than 10 percent for the month, which was also a first.

Due to its sheer size, Texas is the No.1 state for solar capacity. According to the report from SmartAsset, the Lone Star State has the most clean energy capacity at 56,405 megawatts, but continues to trail states with similar geographic characteristics in overall clean energy prevalence.

Texas only 38 percent of the state’s electricity capacity comes from clean electricity, and it has the second-largest solar capacity, which means Texas has the most means, space, and potential to accommodate cleaner electricity. Texas as a whole, ranked No. 22 on the list for states with the most clean energy in the SmartAsset report.

In Texas, generation in March 2024 was 1.17 million MWh more year-over-year, which is a 56 percent increase. ERCOT data shows that the system currently has 22,710 megawatts (MW) of operational solar capacity according to IEEFA, and is expected to expand by almost one-third by the end of 2024 with an additional 7,168 MW of capacity added. The number just considers Texas solar projects that have set aside the financing required to get onto the ERCOT grid and that have a signed interconnection agreement.

Texas burned 50.7 million tons of coal for electricity, which was 13 percent of the U.S. total in 2023 according to the EIA grid monitor. Coal's annual share of ERCOT demand ranged from 36 percent to 40 percent from 2003 through 2014. The last year percent. In 2020, coal was under 20 percent in 2020; and was less than 15 percent in 2023 supplying just 13.9 percent of the system’s total demand.

The IEEFA notes coal’s low March production is important because in recent years it has been the moderate temperatures of April and May and steady winds that have affected the usage and the market share.

Greentown Labs reduces roles at Houston, Boston incubators

tough decisions

Greentown Labs has announced a reduction in its staff, which affects both of its locations.

In a letter addressed to the Greentown Labs community, the organization's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch reported that Greentown will be reducing its staff by 30 percent, eliminating 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston. Knobloch noted changes in leadership, growth of the team, and adjustments following the pandemic.

"Greentown Labs grew rapidly over the past four years in pursuit of advancing its mission to catalyze climate action through entrepreneurship, partnership, and collaboration," Knobloch writes in the letter. "This created a structural deficit where growth outpaced revenue."

The letter did not provide details of which positions were eliminated at either location.

With these resizing of the staff and reduced expenses, Knobloch writes that the organization is positioned well for its future.

"Despite this decision, I remain optimistic about the future for Greentown and the impact we will have on addressing the climate crisis," Knobloch tells the community. "Our mission is as urgent as ever and we remain committed to supporting all of you—our startups—by prioritizing core operations, member services, and strategic partner engagements."

Knobloch took the helm of Greentown last summer. He previously served as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

4 student-led sustainability-focused startups scored funding at annual Houston competition

big winners

Four student-founded energy and sustainability startups from around the world have something to celebrate — cleaning up at the 24th annual Rice Business Plan Competition.

This year, 42 startups competed this year, participating in the three-day event that culminated in a reception on Saturday, April 6. Over a dozen companies won prizes, and the full recap of those is reported on InnovationMap.

“We award the competitors $1 million in prizes, prizes that serve as foundational capital to launch their startup,” RBPC Director Catherine Santamaria says at the awards gala. “That’s a large number of prizes, but the biggest thing our startups leave with is a feeling of generosity and community from this room. This community is always ready and willing to help our founders and support our vision for the competition by investing time, money and resources in these student innovators.”

The companies were divided into five categories — one of which was Energy, Cleantech and Sustainability. Four companies from that track scored prizes at the reception.

Icorium Engineering Company from the University of Kansas walked away with $171,000. The company — a chemical engineering startup developing technologies to make sustainable, circular economies a reality for refrigerants and other complex chemical mixtures — won fifth place and a $5,000 prize sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright, EY, Chevron Technology Ventures and Shell Ventures, as well as:

  • $100,000 OWL Investment Prizes
  • $40,000 nCourage Courageous Women Entrepreneur Investment Prize
  • $25,000 from Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce
  • $1,000 Anbarci Family Company Showcase Prize
  • Mercury Elevator Pitch Competition Prize (Best in Energy, Sustainability)
  • An invitation to Entrepreneur Magazine's elevator pitch show

From RWTH Aachen University in Germany, Power2Polymers secured $50,000. Tackling the challenge of forever chemicals, the company is creating safe alternatives free of forever chemicals. The German company took third place and the $50,000 investment sponsored by Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce. The company also won the Mercury Elevator Pitch Competition Prize (Best Overall).

Two climatetech companies that didn't make it to the finals still walked away with funding. From Yale University, Oxylus Energy, which has a technology that uses renewable electricity to turn CO2 and water into energy-dense liquid fuels, won the $25,000 New Climate Ventures Sustainable Investment Prize.

LiQuidium, with its sustainable membrane technology for direct lithium extraction process, from the University of Houston also scored $25,000 — this one from NOV Energy Technology Innovation Cash Prize.

------

A version of this article ran on InnovationMap.