Catalyze’s proprietary suite of technology will bring solar development practices to Lancaster and Amherst areas. Photo courtesy of Catalyze

Houston’s Catalyze announced that it secured $100 million in financing from NY Green Bank to support a 79 megawatt portfolio of community distributed generation solar projects across the state of New York.

The loan is part of Catalyze’s increased presence in New York State with operational projects coming to Lancaster and Amherst. Catalyze’s proprietary suite of technology will bring solar development practices to the area.

Catalyze is a Houston-headquartered clean energy transition company that builds, owns, finances, and operates solar and battery storage systems. Catalyze is backed by leading energy investors EnCap Investments L.P. and Actis. NY Green Bank is a division of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The deal aims to advance New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal of installing six gigawatts of distributed solar by 2025. This is part of a larger goal to 10 GW by 2030.

Catalyze owns two proprietary technologies in REenergyze, which is an origination-to-operations software integration platform to accelerate and scale nationwide adoption of commercial and industrial solar and storage, and SolarStrap. SolarStrap isa mounting technology to install rooftop panels.

“We are excited to leverage our extensive community solar expertise to ensure the success of NY Green Bank’s term loan supporting a community distributed generation (CDG) portfolio,” Jared Haines CEO of Catalyze, says in a news release. “CDG is one of the most effective means of making solar energy more accessible to low-to-moderate income communities, and we look forward to how this partnership will support both the goals of NY Green Bank and New York State.”

Investors in Houston and across Texas are proving to be transformational partners to finance and grow energy hardware startups. Photo via Getty Images

Experts: To power an energy revolution, a financing evolution is needed

guest column

Texas is a national leader in wind and solar, generating more energy in these categories than any other state since 2006 and double that of next placed California. As investment in renewable energy continues to skyrocket, the limitations of the 19th-century grid prevent the industry from realizing the benefits of this 21st-century technology.

For years, Texas has grappled with insufficient infrastructure for its current mix of energy sources, which includes surging renewables. The Alternating Current (AC) grid — the standard since the 1800s — requires matching supply and demand in real-time to maintain a stable frequency, which is complex and costly, especially with renewable energy when the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.

Startup firms are busy developing technologies to solve this issue. For example, it’s possible to modernize the AC grid to control the voltage of the distribution network precisely, to ensure fast adjustments to demand, and to adapt to changes in supply from renewables. Enoda, a U.K.-based scale-up, is an example of an innovative company developing and delivering technology to enable the AC grid to accommodate much higher levels of renewable energy and electrification.

Equally important to these technical innovations are innovations in financing for energy startups. On two levels, investors in Houston and across Texas are proving to be transformational partners to finance and grow energy hardware startups.

1. Innovative Funding Structures

Because of the long timelines, hardware investing requires, in part, more patient capital than the typical Silicon Valley venture capital model prevalent in startup investments. Their playbook is best suited for software companies that develop new features in weeks or months. Energy hardware startups require a longer timeline because of the far greater complexity and upfront capital outlay.

Texas investment firms and family offices are, however, accustomed to investing in complex energy projects with longer development timelines. This complexity presents a high barrier to entry for competitors, which significantly increases the upside potential that risk-capital investors seek should the innovation find market traction. At the same time, up-front capital requirements have decreased considerably, making hardware more appealing to investors.

2. Visionary partnership

Attracting investors and demonstrating early-stage traction differs for hardware companies because of the lengthy pre-revenue R&D process. Software innovators can launch with a minimum viable product, gain a few early customers, and then grow incrementally. By contrast, energy hardware technology must be fully developed from launch. Each Enoda PRIME exchanger, from the first unit sold, represents a piece of critical infrastructure on which households will rely for their electricity supply for its 30-year lifespan. For venture investors who focus on software, it’s easy to assess the health of a software company based on well-established metrics related to customer growth and the cost of customer acquisition.

Hardware investing requires investors to have a much deeper understanding of the problem being solved and assess the quality of the solution objectively rather than rely on early customers for a minimum viable product. Texas investors have been quick to understand the problems that the energy industry must solve around energy balancing and keeping the frequency of a system stable in order to grow renewable energy. Why the keen insight? Because that problem is being solved today by gas power plants. A visionary investor with many years of deep industry perspective is far more likely to appreciate that than a VC firm looking across many industries based on a standard set of metrics.

Visionary partnership is precisely what energy startups need because it’s important not to evaluate the company as it is today but what it will be in five years. Hardware startups need visionary investor partners who understand the importance of parallel pathing fundamental innovation, product development and delivery, and customer development to grow and succeed. Hardware startups succeed only when they can do these things simultaneously—and require investors who can imagine a possible future and understand the path to reach it.

Changing the way investment works

Many energy startups are worthy inheritors of Houston’s bold entrepreneurial spirit that led to technological innovations like deep-sea drilling and hydraulic fracturing. They will continue to need equally bold investors who recognize the world of opportunities at their doorstep.

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Paul Domjan is the founder and chief policy and global affairs officer at Enoda. Derek Jones and Paul Morico are partners at Baker Botts.

Five of Plus Power's projects received financing from nearly a dozen financial partners. Photo courtesy of Plus Power

Houston renewable energy storage developer secures $1.8B in financing

money moves

A Houston company that develops standalone battery energy storage systems has reportedly secured $1.8 billion in new financing for a handful of ongoing projects — most of which are in Texas.

"Over the last year, Plus Power has raised an unparalleled amount of capital for standalone storage projects from a wide range of leading energy project finance banks and investors," Josh Goldstein, CFO of Plus Power, says in a news release. "This capital will support the ongoing buildout of the largest and most diverse portfolio of standalone storage projects in the U.S. The scale highlights our first-mover advantage in bringing high-quality projects to market as well as the tremendous work by our fantastic team."

The funding will be distributed to the following projects, which are expected to have a total of 1,040 megawatts of capacity, according to the release:

  • The 250-megawatt Sierra Estrella Energy Storage facility in Avondale, Arizona, west of Phoenix will use $707 million of the financing — $202 million of tax equity and a $505 million construction, term loan, and letter of credit facility from Bank of America. Expected to deliver by summer of next year, the 11-acre facility will be the largest to date for a standalone energy storage project, according to Plus Power.
  • $212.2 million of tax equity financing from Foss & Company, as well as $276 million of construction and term financing, for the 300 MW / 600 MWh Rodeo Ranch Energy Storage facility in Pecos.
  • $196 million of construction and term financing for the 200 MW / 400 MWh Ebony Energy Storage facility in Comal County, northeast of San Antonio.
  • $200 million of construction and term financing for the 200 MW / 400 MWh Anemoi Energy Storage facility in Hidalgo County, on the Mexican border northwest of Matamoros.
  • $196 million construction, term loan and letter of credit facility for the 90 MW / 360 MWh Superstition Energy Storage project in Gilbert, southeast of Phoenix.

The $884 million committed to three new standalone storage facilities in Texas bring Plus Power's current ERCOT portfolio to 800 MW. Deutsche Bank and First Citizens Bank were the coordinating lead arrangers, per the news release.

"Plus Power is a market leader in the battery energy storage sector and we are honored to have collaborated with them on these breakthrough financings," Jeremy Eisman, managing director and head of Infrastructure & Energy Financing at Deutsche Bank, says in a statement. "We acknowledge the important role that battery storage plays in ensuring a clean and reliable electric grid and look forward to continuing to support the Plus Power team's continued growth in this sector."

Plus Power's portfolio includes large-scale lithium-ion battery systems across 25 states and Canada. The company reports that three of the projects will be completed before next year's summer heat rolls back in.

Originally founded in San Francisco in 2018, Plus Power moved its HQ to Houston last year. The company recently signed a lease for nearly 7,000 square feet at Three Hughes Landing in The Woodlands. The company previously was based in coworking space at the Rayford Office Park in Spring.

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Houston's energy industry deemed both a strength and weakness on global cities report

mixed reviews

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

New collaboration to build data center microgrid in Houston

coming soon

Two companies are teaming up to build a natural gas microgrid in Houston that will reduce emissions by 98 percent.

Provider of prime and backup power solutions RPower has teamed up with Houston’s ViVaVerse Solutions to build a 17-megawatt (MW) microgrid at the ViVa Center campus in Houston, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

The microgrid plans to employ ultra-low emissions and natural gas generators to deliver Resiliency-as-a-Service (RaaS), and this will connect to ViVaVerse's colocation data center operations during utility outages.

RPower will also deploy the microgrid across different ERCOT market programs, which will contribute to assist with essential capacity and ancillary services for the local grid. ERCOT has increased its use of renewable energy in recent years, but still has faced criticism for unstable conditions. The microgrids can potentially assist ERCOT, and also help cut back on emissions.

“RPower's pioneering microgrid will not only deliver essential N+1 resiliency to our data center operations but will also contribute to the local community by supplying necessary capacity during peak demand periods when the electric grid is strained,” Eduardo Morales, CEO of ViVaVerse Solutions and Morales Capital Group, says in a news release.

ViVaVerse Solutions will be converting the former Compaq Computer/HPE headquarters Campus into an innovative technology hub called the ViVa Center, which will host the High-Performance Computing Data Center, and spaces dedicated to mission critical infrastructure and technical facilities . The hub will host 200 data labs.

“We are thrilled to partner with ViVaVerse to deploy this `first of its kind' microgrid solution in the data center space,” Jeff Starcher, CEO of RPower, adds. “Our natural gas backup generation system delivers the same reliability and performance as traditional diesel systems, but with a 98 percent reduction in emissions. Further, the RPower system provides critical grid services and will respond to the volatility of renewable generation, further enabling the energy transition to a carbon free future.”