The study will look at improving sustainability within George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Photo courtesy of Airbus

A few major players have teamed up to look into making air travel more sustainable — and it's all happening in Houston.

The Center for Houston’s Future, Airbus, and Houston Airports have signed a memorandum of understanding intended to study the “feasibility of a hydrogen hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport." The study, which will conclude in March of 2025, will include the participants that will collaborate ways to rethink how their infrastructures could be designed and operated to reduce an overall environmental footprint, and lead to hydrogen-powered aircrafts like the ones Airbus plans to bring to fruition by 2035.

In 2020, Airbus debuted its ZEROe hydrogen-powered aircraft project. The “Hydrogen Hub at Airports'' concept by Airbus unites key airport ecosystem players to develop ways to decarbonize all airport-associated infrastructure with hydrogen. The study will include airport ground transportation, airport heating, end-use in aviation, and possibly ways to supply adjacent customers in transport and local industries.

The use of hydrogen to power future aircraft aims to assist in eliminating aircraft CO2 emissions in the air, and also can help decarbonize air transport on the ground. With Houston being such a large city, and a destination for some many visiting on business, the Houston airports was an easy spot to assign the study.

"Houston’s airports are experiencing tremendous growth, connecting our city to the world like never before,” Jim Szczesniak, the aviation director for the city of Houston, says in a news release. “As we continue to expand and modernize our facilities, participating in this sustainability study is crucial. Continuing to build a sustainable airport system will ensure a healthy future for Houston, attract top talent and businesses, and demonstrate our commitment to being a responsible global citizen.

"This study will provide us with valuable insights to guide our development and position Houston as a global leader in sustainable aviation innovation for generations to come.”

The CHF was a founding organizer of the HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, which was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of seven hydrogen hubs in the nation, and will work in the Houston area and the Gulf Coast. The HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub is eligible to receive up to $1.2 billion as part of a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to advance domestic hydrogen production.

“The Center for Houston’s Future is pleased to have played a crucial role in bringing together the partners for this study,” Brett Perlman, the center's outgoing CEO and president, adds. “With Houston’s role as the world’s energy capital, our record of energy innovation and desire to lead in the business of low-carbon energy, Houston is the perfect place to develop our airports as North American clean hydrogen pioneers.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Houston's airports are looking more and more green. Photo via fly2houston.org

Houston airports land $12.5M for green projects, announce new EV fleet

seeing green

Houston Airports will receive funding from The Federal Aviation Administration in the next few months on projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing the administration's climate challenge guidance at its hubs.

The funds — about $12.5 million — come from the FAA's FY2022 Airport Improvement Program Supplemental Discretionary Grant Competition and are slated to be rolled-out by September 2024. Projects at George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports were among 79 projects around the country, which the FAA granted about $268 million to in total.

“Houston Airports is committed to reducing our environmental impact while also protecting the planet as we expand our global reach. These FAA grants fund our ability to invest in smart and sustainable solutions” Jim Szczesniak, COO for Houston Airports, said in a statement. “The end result of these projects will be a more resilient, efficient and sustainable airport system that aligns with the goal of Houston Airports to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.”

IAH received $10.3 million for two projects that will replace existing generators and fund an energy audit to find energy and water use efficiencies at the airport, as well as "define actionable steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the airfield and the airport's buildings," according to the statement.

Hobby received $2.1 million to also go towards an energy audit and to create a Resiliency Master Plan to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, severe weather and floods in a sustainable way.

Separate from the FAA funds, Houston airports also announced in recent weeks that it will add an all-electric fleet of vehicles for its six airport locations by the end of 2023.

According to a release from HAS, ground operations are a major source of the aviation industry's carbon footprint.

The fleet will include 25 Ford F-150 Lightnings, which can travel up to 320 miles on a full charge. HAS's maintenance team planned to install 11 Level 2 charging stations to support the fleet at its airports this summer.

These updates are all part of HAS's Sustainable Management Plan, which aims to get the system to carbon neutrality by 2030.

Earlier this year, Hertz Electrifies Houston, in partnership with bp pulse, announced that it would install a new EV fast-charging hub to Hobby Airport that's designed to serve ride-hail, taxi fleets and the general public. The initiative, which was formed by The Hertz Corp. and the City of Houston, also aimed to bring 2,100 rental electric vehicles to Houston.
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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.”