Texas Solar For All Coalition and Clean Energy Fund of Texas were two of the 60 recipients of the Solar for All grant competition. Photo via Getty Images

The Biden administration delivered an Earth Day gift with the news that 60 grantees will receive $7 billion in grant awards.

Texas Solar For All Coalition and Clean Energy Fund of Texas were two of the 60 recipients of the Solar for All grant competition. The awardees will provide solar energy to 900,000 low-income households in all 50 states. This is expected to generate an estimated 200,000 jobs as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which includes $405,820,000 in Texas.

“President Biden’s clean energy plan is creating good-paying jobs, reducing emissions, and saving Americans money on their utility bills,” Climate Power Interim States Managing Director André Crombie says in a news release. “Thanks to President Biden, low-income families across Texas will have access to cleaner, cheaper power.”

The Solar for All Program, which was started by the Biden-Harris administration, aims to reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 30 million metric tons over five years, and hopes to improve grid reliability and climate resilience. The award is also part of the Justice40 initiative that aims to ensure that historically underserved communities are given resources to help fight pollution and climate change.

Led by Harris County, Texas SFA is a coalition of Texas counties and cities (Dallas County, Tarrant County, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Waco) that serve over 11 million low-income Texans.

“HARC is proud to be part of the Texas Solar for All Coalition and grateful for the significant support received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help bring the benefits of clean solar power to low-income and disadvantaged communities across Texas," John Hall, HARC’s President and CEO, says in a news release. "Low-income Texans find themselves facing rising energy bills, energy insecurity, and disconnection from the electric grid due to their limited incomes and health-compromising conditions during increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

"Through this Coalition’s delivery of distributed solar, we will be able to provide much-needed locally generated electricity, substantially reduced emissions, and improve the lives of many Texans."

Texas SFA will support home solar panel installation, support workforce training for residents, and battery storage upgrades. The Clean Energy Fund of Texas partnered with Texas Southern University to support clean energy investments at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions in 19 states.

According to a news release, at least 35 percent of grant awardees have engaged local or national labor unions for the estimated 200,000 jobs that will be created.

The convergence of green banking with evergreen experimentation in support of a growing green economy sounds like just the right shade of green. Photo by micheile henderson/Unsplash

Green banking meets evergreen R&D with recent MOU

MONEY + MATTER

The term “Energy Transition” doesn’t merely imply change, it demands it. And with change comes another kind of change–usually of the dollars and cents kind.

While many aspire to embrace more sustainable and cleaner energy solutions in their communities, the affluence needed to deploy necessary infrastructure often sits just outside of reach. Until now, that is.

With the rise of “green banking,” securing financing for the adoption of energy efficiency, implementation of decarbonization technologies, and broader provision of renewable energy is now more accessible. Funds at green banks, backed by a blend of public and philanthropic contributions, tap into the modern trend of crowdfunding to support egalitarian and climate improvement efforts.

However, green bank financing is structured with repayment of–or a return on–capital expected at the end of the term, meaning approval tends only to be granted to proven and established projects well past the research and development stage. Given the Energy Transition is, for the most part, still in its infancy, clearing such hurdles can be difficult.

But Houston is full of dreamers and doers; researchers and entrepreneurs eager to tackle the next big challenge. It would come as no surprise then, that Texas’ first green bank, the Clean Energy Fund of Texas (“CEFTx”), bucks tradition with a novel Memorandum Of Understanding (“MOU”) co-signed by the Houston Advanced Research Center (“HARC”) to finance efforts staunchly entrenched in R&D activity.

As the Energy Transition foothold grows, Houstonians are compelled not just to invest in green initiatives, but to drive them. Which only makes sense, considering the deep expertise in energy innovation led most recently by the Houston-area shale revolutionaries from Mitchell Energy. Established over 40 years ago by George P. Mitchell himself, HARC plants the seeds of transformation at the intersection of science, resilience, sustainability, and the environment.

Per the March 29 news release from CEFTx, John Hall, President & CEO of HARC says, “We are excited to join forces with the team at Clean Energy Fund of Texas as they drive green investment in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Our research expertise and experience in managing state and federal grants will be a true benefit to Texans.”

The recent MOU brings Energy Transition visionaries the capital necessary to explore, test, develop, and deploy innovative solutions from conception to maturity. Entrepreneurs at all stages of the business lifecycle are encouraged to apply for funding on the CEFTx website or connect with HARC at an upcoming event to discover how the two entities can take ideas from dream to reality.

“It’s an honor to work with the esteemed researchers at HARC, who have been studying sustainability for decades,” says Stephen Brown of CEFTx in the release. “Together we can be even more effective at kickstarting investments in solar power, retrofits, and other technologies that help create the green workforce of tomorrow.”

The fresh approach to funding set up by CEFTx and HARC positions new companies to succeed and enables existing companies to progress in the transition to a more sustainable #futureofenergy. It’s just the sort of sense that is needed to truly drive change.

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Houston clean fuels producer reaches milestone on South Texas hydrogen-powered refinery

hi to hydrogen

Houston-based Element Fuels has completed the pre-construction phase of its hydrogen-powered clean fuels refinery and combined-cycle power plant in the Port of Brownsville.

Element Fuels, which has contracted with Houston-based McDermott to provide front-end engineering design services for the project, has designed the plant to produce and recycle hydrogen that will generate and deliver cleaner, higher-quality fuels, including much-needed high-octane gasoline and electricity for commercial and consumer consumption.

“Element Fuels has received the necessary permitting to construct and operate a refinery capable of producing in excess of 160,000 barrels, or approximately 6.7 million gallons, per day of finished gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel,” Founder and Co-CEO of Element Fuels John Calce says in a news release. “A permit for a greenfield refinery of this size, scope, and functionality has not been granted in the United States since the 1970s. This speaks to the innovative approaches we are taking to address climate and sustainability concerns in cleaner, greener ways that are new to the refinery space.”

The project is expected to go online in 2027 and will produce enough low-carbon hydrogen to supply approximately 100 percent of the refinery’s fuel requirements, essentially eliminating CO2 emissions, per the news release. More than 100 megawatts of excess electricity generated from the power plant will be provided to the Energy Reliability Council of Texas for the surrounding community’s needs.

“Element Fuels is not only ushering in the next generation of clean fuels, we’re also proving that, without a doubt, there is a way to produce higher quality, cleaner, higher-octane fuels that significantly advance the energy transition," Calce continues. "This changes everything – for the industry, for consumers, and for the well-being of the planet.”

The plant is located in South Texas and built on more than 240 acres within the Port of Brownsville. Element Fuels is reportedly collaborating with local and Port officials "to advance the Justice40 initiative established by the U.S. Department of Commerce to contribute to a climate-positive environment that provides residents of the Brownsville area and Rio Grande Valley with clean energy and affordable and sustainable housing," per the release.

“Building on our successful collaboration during early project phases, we believe we are uniquely positioned to leverage our expertise and knowledge to further support Element Fuels throughout the next stages of this unique project,” adds Rob Shaul, senior vice president at Low Carbon Solutions at McDermott. “We remain focused on the delivery of low carbon pathway projects and are committed to advancing the landscape of energy production.”

Houston organization grants funding to local arts center to make sustainable updates to facilities

solar-powered spotlight

Green Mountain Energy Sun Club has supplied a grant of nearly $103,000 to a local Indian arts center to make sustainable improvements to its facilities.

Silambam Houston will use the grant to help with the installation of a rooftop solar array and a new pavilion at its Pearland dance studio, which will be called The Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Sustainability Pavilion. The venue will serve as an outdoor gathering space for events at the facility.

“At Green Mountain Energy, we recognize that our choices can have a profound impact on our environment,” Mark Parsons, Green Mountain Energy vice president, says in a news release. “We’re proud to support the rich and diverse culture of the Indian community, and we’re glad to help Silambam take the next step toward a more sustainable future.”

The 14.58 kW solar structure is expected to offset 100 percent of the building’s energy needs, which would save the organization more than $4,000 per year for the next 25 years. Sun Club has donated more than $14 million for 164 projects across Texas and the Northeast since it was founded in 2022.

Silambam is an Indian classical arts organization with an arts academy program that serves 180 students each week with more than 20 teaching artists on staff. The professional dance company has more than 20 dancers that regularly perform at Houston venues like Miller Outdoor Theater where they will perform next on June 7.

“We are thrilled to be able to weave sustainable practices into our arts programming, while also giving back to the community,” founder and executive artistic director of Silambam Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan said in a news release. “The annual savings from this project will allow us to increase artist pay, provide tuition waivers for economically disadvantaged students, and/or provide free or pay-what-you-can access to our ArtStream Concerts, all while benefiting the environment.”

Silambam Houston will use the grant to help with the installation of a rooftop solar array and a new pavilion at its Pearland dance studio. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain