TotalEnergies' new solar farm outside of Houston is the size of 1,800 football fields. Photo via totalenergies.com

A global energy corporation has a new solar farm online and operating just outside of Houston.

TotalEnergies (NYSE: TTE) has started commercial operations of its new solar farm, Myrtle Solar, just south of Houston. The farm has a capacity of 380 megawatts peak of solar production and 225 MWh of co-located batteries. Spread across the space — which is about the size of 1,800 football fields — are 705,000 solar panels producing enough electricity to power 70,000 homes.

Seventy percent of the power generated will be sourced for TotalEnergies' industrial plants in the U.S. Gulf Coast region, and the remaining 30 percent will be used by Kilroy Realty, a publicly traded real estate company, per a 15-year corporate power purchase agreement.

“We are very proud to start up Myrtle, TotalEnergies’ largest-to-date operated utility-scale solar farm with storage in the United States. This startup is another milestone in achieving our goal to build an integrated and profitable position in Texas, where ERCOT is the main electrical grid operator," Vincent Stoquart, senior vice president of renewables at TotalEnergies, says in the release. "Besides, the project will enable the Company to cover the power needs of some of its biggest U.S. industrial sites with electricity from a renewable source."

The farm is part of the company’s Go Green Project that is hoping to enable the company to cover its power needs by 2025, as well as curtail the Scope 1+2 emissions of its industrial sites in the Gulf Coast area, including Port Arthur and La Porte in Texas and Carville, Louisiana.

“Given the advantages that IRA tax exemptions are generating, we will continue to actively develop our 25 GW portfolio of projects in operation or development in the United States, to contribute to the Company’s global power generation target of more than 100 TWh by 2030,” Stoquart continues.

Myrtle Solar is also equipped with 114 high-tech Energy Storage Systems with a total capacity of 225 MWh. The technology was provided by TotalEnergies' affiliate Saft.

Balancing renewable energy growth and grid resilience requires a multifaceted approach. Photo via Getty Images

Finding a Balance: Growing renewable energy vs. grid resilience in Texas

Guest Column

The global energy sector is on an exhilarating trajectory, teeming with promising technologies and unprecedented opportunities for a sustainable future. Yet, we find ourselves grappling with the challenges of reliability and affordability. As both a researcher in the field of power electronics and a consumer with bills to pay, I find myself experiencing mixed feelings.

As a researcher, I am thrilled by the progress we have achieved, particularly in energy conversion. The exponential growth of renewable energy technologies in Texas and beyond, including wind turbines and solar PV systems, is cause for celebration. These innovations, coupled with supportive policies, have facilitated widespread deployment and the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat climate change, and create a brighter future for our children.

While renewable energy resources can play a crucial role in maintaining the supply-demand balance of the grid, as they did by performing very well during the recent 2023 Texas heat wave, their intermittent and unpredictable nature can also pose a significant challenge to the power system. Unlike traditional power plants that operate continuously, wind turbines and solar PV systems rely on weather conditions for optimal performance. Fluctuations in wind speed, cloud cover, and sunlight intensity can lead to imbalances between energy supply and demand. This imbalance will worsen as the anticipated influx of electric vehicles and their charging needs come into play.

The volatility of renewables contributes to price fluctuations in the electricity market, which not only affects consumers but also raises concerns about grid resilience during extreme weather events. My electricity bill increased by over 20 percent compared to last year, partly caused by inflation, but mainly due to higher operational costs in the Texas electricity market.

Texas witnessed firsthand the consequences of a not-so-resilient grid through the severe power outages experienced during the "Polar Vortex" in February 2021. These outages not only disrupted lives but also disproportionately impacted vulnerable populations. During that time, my wife was expecting our second child. Enduring two nights in our frigid home without electricity or a fireplace was an ordeal that we navigated relatively unscathed. But it made me think of those less fortunate. These circumstances underscore the importance of establishing a robust, dependable and affordable electrical power system.

Balancing renewable energy growth and grid resilience requires a multifaceted approach:

  1. Investment in Infrastructure and Storage: It is crucial to strengthen the grid and ensure a reliable power supply. Upgrading transmission and distribution systems, integrating advanced monitoring and control technologies, and enhancing grid interconnections are essential. The Texas Legislature established the Powering Texas Forward Act, also known as Senate Bill 2627, a taxpayer-funded loan program, to encourage investment. While excluding certain renewable energy facilities and electric energy storage, it recognizes the need for a reliable grid. Hydrogen fuel cell generation facilities could be a potential solution, providing clean and stable energy while remaining eligible for the loan program. Additionally, implementing large-scale energy storage systems utilizing batteries and hydrogen storage technologies can mitigate renewable energy volatility by storing excess energy until needed. The Texas energy industry's push for these advances is a significant step in the right direction.
  2. Diversification of Energy Sources: While renewables play a crucial role in decarbonization, a mix of renewable sources, natural gas, and other low-carbon resources is necessary for the foreseeable future. Implementing carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies across industries can mitigate associated climate impacts. The failure of Senate Bill 624, which would have had significant repercussions for wind and solar facilities, indicates that Texas legislators are genuinely concerned about clean, alternative sources of energy. However, a lot more needs to be done, including coordinated actions between federal, state, and international governments, to address the urgent issue of climate change. Texas can leverage its hydrocarbon/energy expertise to produce economical green and blue hydrogen, advanced fuel cells and hydrogen-based internal combustion engine technologies, enabling a smoother energy transition in terms of usage and jobs.
  3. Educating the General Public: It is critical to help people understand the necessity of modernizing our energy infrastructure; the benefits and opportunities it brings and the transformations we can expect. Institutions like the University of Houston play a crucial role in advancing clean energy technologies and educating the future energy workforce. The establishment of the Texas University Fund (TUF), with a budget of over $3 billion, through a constitutional amendment in November 2023, will be a pivotal step toward this goal.

When addressing the energy transformation and grid resilience dilemma, the real-life impact on human beings must be of prime importance. Our leaders should focus on a balanced approach considering grid infrastructure investment, diversification of energy sources, energy storage solutions, and public education. By adopting this multifaceted strategy, we can ensure a reliable, resilient, and affordable energy future.

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Harish Krishnamoorthy is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate director of the Power Electronics, Microgrids and Subsea Electric Systems Center (PEMSEC) at the University of Houston.

Gautam Phanse of Chevron Technology Ventures answers questions about this unique program. Photo courtesy

Q&A: Chevron's unique clean energy studio role in Houston entrepreneur community

matchmaking innovation

A new program from Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures is rethinking how best to commercialize research-based technology.

This spring, Chevron Studio announced its second cohort of its program that matches entrepreneurs with promising technologies coming out of universities and labs. The overall goal of the studio — a collaboration between Chevron and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL — is to scale up and commercialize early-stage technologies that have the potential to impact the future of energy.

Once selected, there are three phases of the program. After the entrepreneur applications closed in March, the first step was matching the selected entrepreneurs with the inventors of the selected intellectual properties, which will occurs over three to four months. The next phase includes scaling up the product — something that will take one to two years, depending on the tech. The last step would be a trial or a pilot program that includes rolling out a minimum viable product at commercial scale at Chevron or an affiliate. The next cohort application period will open next month.

Gautam Phanse is the strategic relationship manager for Chevron Technology Ventures. He joins InnovationMap for a Q&A to explain more about the opportunity.

What types of technologies is Chevron looking to bring into commercialization through this program? How is the program different from existing accelerators/incubators/etc.?

GautamPhanse: Chevron Technology Ventures brings external innovation to Chevron. Key focus areas for CTV are industrial decarbonization, emerging mobility, energy decentralization, and the growing circular carbon economy. Chevron Studio is one of the tools to achieve this goal. The current focus areas for Chevron Studio are: carbon utilization, hydrogen and renewable energy, energy storage systems, and solutions for circular economy. These focus areas will be reviewed every year and additional areas could be brought into the mix.

The goal of Chevron Studio is to scale up and commercialize technology developed in the Universities and National Labs. We curate the intellectual property developed at universities and national labs and provide a platform to match entrepreneurs with the IP. The program provides seed funding and a pathway through incubation, pilot and field trials to scale up the technologies. The uniqueness of this program is its target and the breadth of its scope — all the way from incubation to field trials.

How does Chevron Technology Ventures and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory collaborate on this project? What role does each entity play?

GP: CTV has a long history of supporting innovation and the startup community. And over the years we’ve seen the consistent gaps and the struggles that the startup companies have in scaling up technologies. We also have a long history of working with national labs and universities and have seen the challenges in getting these technologies out of the labs. The idea for Chevron Studio grew out of these challenges.

NREL’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center manages Chevron Studio, working closing with entrepreneurs and guiding them through the program while leveraging capabilities at the lab and activating the IEC’s network of cleantech startups, investors, foundations, and industry partners.

What are you looking for from the entrepreneur applicants? Who should apply?

GP: We are looking for entrepreneurs who are seeking their next opportunity. They should have a passion in lower carbon solutions and the patience to work on early-stage technologies to see them through scale up and commercialization. Aspiring entrepreneurs with demonstrated passion are also welcome to apply. The entrepreneurs are expected to build a team, raise funds and grow the business providing competitive solutions to the industry.

Tell me about cohort 1. How did it go and what were the participants able to accomplish?

GP: We were really excited about the response we got from both the entrepreneur community and the universities and national labs. We had a strong pool of entrepreneurs and a great mix of IP and frankly had a tough time making the selection. The first cohort had four entrepreneurs in the initial discovery phase. Some of them have now graduated, and we will be announcing the participants in the next phase — for scaling up — shortly.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity. This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Houston companies land DOE vouchers for clean tech

money moves

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.

New global report names top cleantech startups to keep an eye on

seeing green

Nine Greentown Labs members were recognized on a global list honoring cleantech companies.

Houston-based Fervo Energy was named to Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech 100 report. Cleantech Group is a research-driven company that aids the public sector, private sector, investors, and also identifies, assesses, and engages with the innovative solutions around climate challenges.

Fervo, a geothermal energy company that specializes in a renewable energy technology that uses hot water to produce electricity, debuted in 2022 on the list, and was honored in the “Energy & Power” category for the second straight year.

The other Greentown Labs, which is dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, companies recognized on the list include:

  • Amogy, a New York-based novel carbon-free energy system using ammonia as a renewable fuel
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Canadian waste and carbon utilization company
  • Dandelion Energy, New York-based company offering ground source heat pumps for most homes
  • Energy Dome, a Milan-based company addressing the problem of long-duration energy storage
  • e-Zinc, a Canadian company with a breakthrough electrochemical technology for energy storage
  • Nth Cycle, a Massachusetts company with sustainable metal refining
  • Raptor Maps, a Massachusetts company with a software platform for solar assets' performance data management
  • Sublime Systems, a Massachusetts companydeveloping a breakthrough process for low-carbon cement
  • WeaveGrid, a California company working with utilities, automakers, EVSEs, and EV owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation

The number of nominations from the public, a panel, i3, awards and Cleantech Group totaled 25,435 from over 65 countries, which is a 61% increase from the 2023 nomination process. Winners were chosen from a short list of 330 companies by a panel of over 80 industry experts.

While not on the list, Beaumont-based Fortress Energy was mentioned for its electrolyzer supply agreement with Cleantech Group 100 winner Electric Hydrogen.

The Cleantech Group 100 was started 15 years ago.

“In 15 more years, we will be at 2039—by which time, a mere decade out from the ‘net-zero’ target of 2050,” Cleantech Group CEO Richard Youngman says in the report. “I would expect the composition of our annual list to have markedly changed again, and the leading upcoming private companies of that time to reflect such.”