Silambam Houston will use the funding to create the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Sustainability Pavilion. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain

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

Discovery Green's Earth Day event generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage — and over 90 percent of it was diverted from landfills. Photo courtesy of Discovery Green

Houston organization celebrates zero waste goal

earth day win

Discovery Green celebrated Earth Day with a major milestone this year — achieving it’s Zero Waste goal.

The nonprofit, along with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition and Houston Public Works, are announced that the 2024 Green Mountain Energy Earth Day, which generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage, diverted the majority of that waste from landfills. "Zero Waste," as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is successfully diverting at least 90 percent of waste from the landfill.

On Earth Day, Discovery Green composted 2,200 pounds of waste and recycled 1,300 pounds of trash.

“Part of Discovery Green Conservancy’s mission is to serve as a village green for our city and be a source of health and happiness for all. Our goal is to sustain an exceptional environment for nature and people,” Discover Green President Kathryn Lott says in a news release. “We are beyond thrilled to have achieved Zero Waste certification.”

The achievement was made possible by volunteers from the University of Houston – Downtown.

Steve Stelzer, president of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s board of directors, acknowledged how rare the achievement is in a public space in a major city like Houston.

“Discovery Green Conservancy stepped up and made a commitment to weigh, measure and record everything. They should be congratulated to have done this at this scale,” Stelzer adds. “The Conservancy said they were going to do it and they did. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The 2024 event included:

  • 31,000 visitors in attendance
  • 60 + exhibitors
  • 100 + volunteers
  • 12 artists
    • 9 chalk artists
    • Donkeeboy and Donkeemom
    • Mark Bradford
  • 25 Mark Bradford artworks made of scrap presented in partnership with Houston First
  • 4 short films shown
  • 3,836.7 pounds of waste collected during Green Mountain Energy Earth Day
A Houston nonprofit's farm will soon be completely off-grid, running its entire operation on sustainable resources. Photo courtesy of Hope Farms

Houston nonprofit flips switch on solar panel project thanks to sustainability grant

shine on

A Houston-area farm is one step closer to operating completely off-grid thanks to new solar panels installed with funding provided by a grant.

In a step towards a greener future, Hope Farms, a 7-acre farm operated by a Houston nonprofit organization, Recipe for Success Foundation, unveiled 18 new solar panels on Tuesday. This significant move is part of a collective effort to completely transition the farm to solar power, demonstrating its commitment to sustainability.

“The industry (solar power) itself is intimidating to people,” Gracie Cavner, founder and CEO of Hope Farms and Recipe for Success, tells EnergyCapital. “Part of our work is to inspire people to replicate what we're doing. We want to show that things aren't as hard as you think they are.”

The nonprofit organization is recognized in Houston for its work in addressing childhood obesity, with a long held mission of demystifying the common misconceptions around healthy eating. It is now tackling another challenge: dispelling the myth that solar power implementation is difficult. Hope Farms' latest initiative will not only further its energy independence, it will also show that adopting renewable energy, similar to embracing healthy food choices, is a feasible option.

The 18 solar panels will power the farm's composting toilet facility and all of the electricity used in its barn, which acts as its market stand and kitchen. Its next green phase is fast approaching and will implement solar panels on top of its flower studio, where the farm's internet and security systems reside. Its final phase will install a water well pump.

“We really did a lot of direct learning,” Cavner said. “We worked directly with solar engineers, not somebody with a company that benefited from us making one decision or another. I feel like more people would have solar if they realized they could do that.”

This is not the first green step Hope Farms has taken thanks to a Green Mountain Energy Sun Club grant, and certainly not the last. Last year, the farm cut the ribbons to its rainwater capture system that now saves roughly 95,000 gallons of water per year by capitalizing on the city’s abundant rainfall.

Since the farms beginning in 2016, it has relied on solar, even when it was only fields lit by a few lights. Soon, Hope Farms will be completely off-grid, running its entire operation on sustainable resources.

“With this expansion, I feel like it’s going to be taking the rock out of the middle of the river,” Cavner said. “It’s going to open up this train and make it easier for anybody to jump in and do it. The first step is kicking the door open and making more people want to pursue it.”

Hope Farms installed 18 solar panels and already has plans to add more. Photo courtesy of Hope Farms

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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.”

Energy storage facility just outside of Texas gets funding from global investor with Houston presence

fresh funds

A global independent energy and commodities group with its United States office in Houston has announced an investment in a Gulf Coast salt dome energy storage project.

Mercuria did not disclose its financial contribution into Lafayette, Louisiana-based Black Bayou Energy Hub LLC, but the company's support will go toward the development of the energy infrastructure of the large-scale, underground energy storage facility in Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes in Louisiana, which is alongside the Texas border.

"Mercuria's investment in Black Bayou Energy Hub represents a significant step towards enhancing the resilience and flexibility of our energy infrastructure. This partnership leverages Mercuria's robust financial capabilities and extensive expertise in commodity markets, aligning with Black Bayou's strategic location and development potential," Boris Bystrov, managing director of investments at Mercuria, says in a news release.

"We are committed to supporting innovative projects like Black Bayou essential for transitioning to a sustainable global energy future," he continues. "Together, we aim to create a storage solution that addresses the dynamic needs of the energy sector, fostering stability and growth in the U.S. Gulf Coast region and beyond."

Located in Southwest Louisiana near what is called "LNG Alley," the Black Bayou Energy Hub will initially store FERC-regulated natural gas energy in its salt dome storage capacity, as well as develop wide range of energy products to meet growing customer need, per the release.

The strategic location of the facility — 25 miles on either side of growing cities Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Port Arthur, Texas — is just seven miles east of the Louisiana/Texas border and 18 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

"Mercuria's investment in the Black Bayou Energy Hub creates an ideal partnership that combines Mercuria's financial strength, extensive commodity experience, and global reach with Black Bayou's unique project attributes and the team's deep expertise developing, owning, and operating underground salt dome storage projects," adds Tad Lalande, Black Bayou's CEO. "We're thrilled to add Mercuria to our roster of existing sponsors, including Charlestown Energy Partners and Cameron Prairie Sporting Club, as we progress our development and bring this project to life."

With its local office in Houston's Greenway Plaza, Mercuria, founded in 2004, has pledged that over half of its new investments will go toward renewables and transitional energy.