The two projects are in Wharton County and Bell County and will add renewable energy to the Texas energy grid. Photo via Pexels

A leading provider of sustainable fiber-based paper and packaging solutions is supporting the first of two Texas-based solar projects.

WestRock set the stage by entering into virtual power purchase agreements with Houston-based ENGIE North America. The two projects are in Wharton County and Bell County and will add renewable energy to the Texas energy grid.

Bernard Creek Solar is the first of two solar projects that are part of the VPPAs between WestRock and ENGIE, and is currently operating southwest of Houston in Wharton County. WestRock contracted 207 megawatts from the project Under the VPPA. The 230 megawatts Bernard Creek solar project is projected to produce approximately 500,000 megawatts an hour annually, which will generate over $45 million in revenue for the county and create more than 250 jobs during construction.

The WestRock VPPA for the Bernard Creek project, and the similar project located in Bell County, will add a total of 282 megawatts of renewable energy to the Texas energy grid.

"We are delighted that Bernard Creek Solar is supporting WestRock’s ambitions to meet its 2030 science-based targets,” Dave Carroll, chief renewables officer at ENGIE, says in a news release. “North AmericaENGIE’s projects are focused on meeting the specific needs of our clients as we work together to accelerate the energy transition in North America, and this agreement reflects that."

The VPPAs with WestRock have contributed to ENGIE to surpass more than 1 gigawatt of signed power purchases. ENGIE is recognized as the top developer to sell corporate energy PPAs and has ranked in the top three since 2019 with a total corporate PPA portfolio in the USA of 7.3 according to BloombergNEF's latest Market Outlook report. Schneider Electric’s Sustainability Business provided the advisory services and strategy management for these pivotal VPPAs with WestRock.

"We are pleased to play a role in the production of clean energy from large-scale solar projects and to join forces with ENGIE and Schneider Electric to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adding more renewable energy to the grid,” David B. Sewell, president and CEO at WestRock, adds.

The Texas projects are set to come online in 2024. Photo via Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric to invest in Texas clean energy projects with IRA tax credit transfer

shining on solar

Energy management and automation company Schneider Electric is investing in a Texas portfolio of solar and battery storage systems developed, built, and operated by Houston-based ENGIE North America.

The Texas projects are set to come online in 2024. France-based Schneider says the projects will put the company closer to reaching its goal of 100 percent renewable energy in the U.S. and Canada by 2030.

The Schneider investment comes in the form of tax credit transfers enabled by the federal Inflation Reduction Act. A Schneider news release didn’t put a price tag on the investment and didn’t name the Texas projects.

Schneider explains that the federal law enables the transfer of certain federal tax credits from renewable energy, clean energy manufacturing, battery storage and other clean energy projects. These transfers are an alternative to traditional tax equity deals.

“This collaboration with Schneider signals a real step forward in accelerating the net-zero transition,” Dave Carroll, chief renewables officer and senior vice president at ENGIE North America, says in the news release.

Carroll adds that the solar-and-storage portfolio and the tax credit transfers “support the continued growth of renewable energy and storage options in the U.S., which brings economic opportunities to an expanding set of communities alongside the transition to a lower-carbon grid.”

Last month, ENGIE said it had recently wrapped up more than $1 billion in tax equity financing from banking heavyweights BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Chase. The financing went toward 1.3 gigawatts’ worth of clean energy projects.

Located in Callahan County, Texas, outside of Abilene, ENGIE's Century Oak Wind Project is nearing completion. Photo courtesy of Engie

Low-carbon energy company with U.S. HQ in Houston to launch Texas wind energy plant later this year

wind in the west

A wind energy project being built just east of Abilene by Houston-based ENGIE North America will annually supply 65 megawatts of power to Ferguson, a distributor of hardware, tools, plumbing supplies, and other industrial items.

Under a newly signed agreement, ENGIE’s 153-megawatt Century Oak project is expected to generate enough wind energy to meet most of Ferguson’s electrical needs in the U.S. and Canada. This energy would power the equivalent of 34,000 typical homes in the U.S. The project features 45 wind turbines.

The Century Oak project is creating about 300 to 400 construction jobs. It’s scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

Paperwork submitted in 2021 to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts indicates ENGIE North America, a subsidiary of French utility company ENGIE, is investing more than $140 million in the project.

Across North America, ENGIE is building or operating nearly seven gigawatts’ worth of wind, solar, and storage capacity.

“We have activities in more than 100 counties across the U.S. and Canada — the energy transition is really one that will be powered by communities across the continent,” says Dave Carroll, chief renewables officer at ENGIE North America.

ENGIE’s other wind energy customers in Texas include Akamai, Allianz, GetBlok Farms, Ingersoll Rand, Microsoft, and Walmart.

Last year, ENGIE North America wrapped up $800 million in financing for three renewable energy projects in the U.S., including a wind farm in Texas, that are capable of generating 665 megawatts of renewable energy.

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4 Houston energy companies pledge financial support in wake of Hurricane Beryl

donation station

Four major energy companies in the Houston area have chipped in more than $400,000 to support relief efforts for Hurricane Beryl in Southeast Texas. Nationwide, it’s estimated that the storm caused at least $28 billion in damage and economic losses.

Here’s a breakdown of contributions announced by the four energy companies.

Baker Hughes Foundation

The Baker Hughes Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Houston-based energy technology company Baker Hughes, gave a $75,000 grant to the Houston chapter of the American Red Cross for Hurricane Beryl relief efforts.

“We understand recovery and rebuilding can take weeks or months, and we support the American Red Cross’ mission of providing people with clean water, safe shelter, and food when they need them most,” says Lorenzo Simonelli, chairman and CEO of Baker Hughes.

CenterPoint Energy

Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, which at one point had more than 2 million customers without power due to Hurricane Beryl, says its foundation has donated to several disaster relief organizations in the region. These include the American Red Cross of Coastal Bend, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Combined Arms, and the 4B Disaster Response Network in Brazoria and Galveston counties.

As of July 11, the company had also provided:

  • More than 30,000 bottles of water to cooling centers and distribution centers in the Houston area.
  • Meals to local first responders.
  • Mobile power generation at cooling centers, hospitals, senior living centers, and water treatment plants.

CenterPoint didn’t assign a dollar value to its contributions.

“Our first priority is getting the lights back on. At the same time, we have seen firsthand the devastation our neighbors are facing, and our commitment to the community goes beyond restoration efforts,” says Lynnae Wilson, senior vice president of CenterPoint’s electric business.

ConocoPhillips

Houston-based ConocoPhillips contributed $200,000 to relief efforts for Hurricane Beryl. The company also is matching donations from U.S. employees of ConocoPhillips.

The money is being split among the Houston Food Bank, Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

“Houston is our hometown, and many of our employees and neighbors have been impacted by Hurricane Beryl,” says Ryan Lance, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillip.

Entergy Texas

Entergy Texas, based in The Woodlands, donated $125,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Beryl relief efforts. The money will go toward emergency needs such as food, shelter, and medical care.

“Our commitment to helping communities in distress remains unwavering, and we are hopeful that our contribution will offer relief and comfort to those facing hardships in the storm’s aftermath,” says Eliecer Viamontes, president and CEO of Entergy Texas.

Entergy Texas supplies electricity to about 512,000 customers in 27 counties. It’s a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.

Houston energy data SaaS co. expands to new platform

making moves

In an effort to consolidate and improve energy data and forecasting, a Houston software company has expanded to a new platform.

Amperon announced that it has expanded its AI-powered energy forecaststoSnowflake Marketplace, an AI data cloud company. With the collaboration, joint customers can seamlessly integrate accurate energy forecasts into power market trading. The technology that Amperon provides its customers — a comprehensive, AI-backed data analytics platform — is key to the energy industry and the transition of the sector.

“As Amperon continues to modernize energy data and AI infrastructure, we’re excited to partner with Snowflake to bring the most accurate energy forecasts into a single data experience that spans multiple clouds and geographies," Alex Robart, chief revenue officer at Amperon, says in a news release. "By doing so, we’re bringing energy forecasts to where they will be accessible to more energy companies looking to increase performance and reliability."

Together, the combined technology can move the needle on enhanced accuracy in forecasting that strengthens grid reliability, manages monetary risk, and advances decarbonization.

“This partnership signifies Amperon’s commitment to deliver world-class data-driven energy management solutions," Titiaan Palazzi, head of power and Utilities at Snowflake, adds. "Together, we are helping organizations to easily and securely access the necessary insights to manage risk and maximize profitability in the energy transition."

With Amperon's integrated short-term demand and renewables forecasts, Snowflake users can optimize power markets trading activity and manage load risk.

"Amperon on Snowflake enables us to easily integrate our different data streams into a single unified view," Jack Wang, senior power trader and head of US Power Analysis at Axpo, says. "We value having complete access and control over our analytics and visualization tools. Snowflake allows us to quickly track and analyze the evolution of every forecast Amperon generates, which ultimately leads to better insights into our trading strategy."

Amperon, which recently expanded operations to Europe, closed a $20 million series B round last fall led by Energize Capital and tripled its team in the past year and a half.

In March, Amperon announced that it replatformed its AI-powered energy analytics technology onto Microsoft Azure.

Learn more about the company on the Houston Innovators Podcast episode with Sean Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Amperon.

Houston logistics company works toward software solutions to energy transition challenges

offshore shipping

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now."

And, predictably, some of those waves are caused by new momentum within the energy transition.

"The energy transition has thrown up a lot of questions for everyone in the maritime industry," Costello says. "The regulations create a lot of questions around cost primarily. ... And that has created a huge number of opportunities for technology."

Fuel as a primary cost for the maritime industry. These cargo ships are traversing the world 24/7 and burning fuel at all times. Costello says there's an increased focus on the fuel process — "all with a goal of essentially reducing carbon intensity usage."

One of the ways to move the needle on reducing the carbon footprint of these ships is optimizing the time spent in port, and specifically the delays associated. Demurrage are charges associated with delays in loading and unloading cargo within maritime shipping, and Costello estimates that the total paid globally in demurrage fees is around $10 billion to $20 billion a year.

"These fees can be huge," Costello says. "What technology has really enabled with this problem of demurrage is helping companies drill down to the true root cause of what something is happening."

All this progress is thanks to the enhancement — and wider range of acceptance — of data analysis and artificial intelligence.

Costello, who says Voyager has been improving its profitability every quarter for the last year, has grown the business to around 40 employees in its headquarters of Houston and three remote offices in Brazil, London, and Singapore. The company's last round of funding was a series A in 2021. Costello says the next round, if needed, would be next year.

In the meantime, Voyager is laser focused on providing optimized, cost-saving, and sustainable solutions for its customers — around half of which are headquartered or have a significant presence in Houston. For Costello, that's all about putting the control back into the hands of his customers.

"If we think back to the real problems the industry faces, a lot of them are controlled by different groups and parties. The fact that a ship cannot get in and out of a port quickly is not necessarily a function of one party's issue — it's a multitude of issues, and there's no one factor," Costello says on the show. "To really make the whole process efficient end-to-end you need to provide the customer to access and options for different means of getting cargo from A to B — and you need to have a sense of control in that process."

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.