GE Vernova and Pattern Energy, two energy transition companies with Houston ties, are teaming up for a historic wind project. Photo via ge.com

A business to be spun off by General Electric will build hundreds of turbines for what will be the largest wind project in the Western Hemisphere, part of a massive equipment order and long-term service agreement with the global renewable-energy giant Pattern Energy.

GE Vernova, which recently became a high-level partner of Boston and Houston-based Greentown Labs, announced the agreement Tuesday, saying it is the largest onshore wind turbine order received by the company, both in quantity and in the amount of electricity that the 674 turbines will eventually generate when the SunZia Wind Project comes online in 2026.

GE Vernova will tap its factory in Pensacola, Florida, for the large order, as well as tower manufacturing operations in New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. Overall, 15 suppliers are on board for providing the necessary parts to make each turbine.

Construction already is underway on the SunZia wind farm and an associated multibillion-dollar transmission line that will funnel power to populated markets in the western United States. Pattern Energy, which has a Houston office, just weeks ago announced that it had closed on $11 billion in financing for the projects.

Backers see SunZia — described as an energy infrastructure undertaking larger than that of the Hoover Dam — as a pivotal project. The venture has attracted significant financial capital and stands to boost the percentage of the nation's electricity that comes from renewable sources amid escalating state and federal energy mandates.

Still, some Native American tribes and environmentalists worry about the location of a 50-mile (80-kilometer) segment of the transmission line where it will pass through Arizona's San Pedro Valley. The federal government already had approved the siting, but tribal leaders said there should have been more consultation.

In December, the U.S. Energy Department reported that the private sector over the past three years has announced investments of more than $180 billion in new or expanded clean energy manufacturing projects across the nation, including spending on development of larger, higher capacity wind turbines. GE has been among the companies to take advantage of tax credits included in the federal Inflation Reduction Act.

However, after years of record growth, the industry group American Clean Power expects less land-based wind to be added in the U.S. by year’s end — about enough to power 2.7 million to 3 million homes.

While companies are taking advantage of government incentives now, it can take years to bring projects online, the industry group said.

The SunZia Wind Project will span three counties in rural New Mexico. Crews already are constructing the concrete platforms that will support the turbines, and developers expect the first turbines to rise this autumn.

Pattern Energy CEO Hunter Armistead said the project will serve as a backbone for a cleaner, more reliable grid for customers across the western U.S. The company already has signed long-term power purchase agreements with Shell Energy North America and the University of California for a portion of the electricity that will be generated.

“Construction is in full swing on SunZia, using American-made turbine components and creating thousands of good-paying new jobs — a big win for the growing clean energy economy,” Armistead said in a statement.

Vic Abate, president and CEO of the company's wind business, called the venture historic.

“This project demonstrates GE Vernova’s ability to deliver on our workhorse strategy in onshore wind — producing fewer variants in large quantities at scale to drive quality and reliability across the fleet for our customers," he said in a statement.

In all, the company has more than 55,000 turbines installed worldwide.

The company has been working with Pattern Energy for the past 18 months on site layouts that are designed to maximize the performance of the turbines in central New Mexico and to ensure the supply chain can keep up with manufacturing demands.

GE Vernova consultants also have been working on interconnection with the transmission line, and the company's financial arm provided a tax equity loan commitment that helped to solidify financing for the project.

Pattern Energy, a California-based company with over 150 employees in Houston, revealed its new local office space. Photo courtesy

California renewable energy infrastructure company opens new Houston office

new digs

A company that's developing renewable energy projects has officially opened their new Houston office that will house its 150-person local development team.

Pattern Energy Group LP, headquartered in San Francisco, has moved its Houston operations into the Montrose Collective at 888 Westheimer Road. The new mixed-use complex developed by Radom Capital is home to restaurants, spas, and other retailers.

"We are doubling down on our commitment to Houston with an innovative new office that is designed to foster the collaborative nature of our work to develop some of America's most ambitious clean power projects," says Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy, in a June news release. "Leveraging Houston's top-notch energy workforce has been an important component of our success and we look forward to tapping the City's talent base for our continued growth.

Pattern Energy, which develops and operates wind, solar, transmission, and energy storage projects, has a portfolio of 36 renewable energy facilities that have an operating capacity of nearly 6,000 megawatts across the United States, Canada, Japan, and Mexico.

"This new space will help foster the ingenuity of our dedicated employees and their passion for our mission – to transition the world to renewable energy," Armistead, who's based locally, continues.

Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy, celebrated the company's new office last month. Photo courtesy

The company's development team is based in Houston and is currently working on the SunZia Transmission and Wind project in New Mexico and Arizona, which Pattern Energy describes as "the largest clean energy infrastructure project in U.S. history."

Also housed in the new office is the company's Operations Control Center, which provides 24/7 remote monitoring and control of Pattern Energy's renewable energy facilities. Other employees in the new space work on the meteorological, transmission, and energy trading teams.

"We chose the Montrose neighborhood based on our employee feedback," says Cary Kottler, chief development officer, who's also based in Houston. "To achieve our mission, we need to be energized – and Montrose has the vibrancy and atmosphere we were looking for. As we move forward with building a pipeline of truly exciting renewable energy projects, we are confident that this is the ideal location for our employees to write a new chapter in our history."

The new office lobby features a mural by local Houston artist DUAL.

The new office is in Montrose, a neighborhood that had the "vibrancy and atmosphere" Pattern Energy was looking for. Photo courtesy

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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.”