The two projects are in Wharton County and Bell County and will add renewable energy to the Texas energy grid. Photo via Pexels

A leading provider of sustainable fiber-based paper and packaging solutions is supporting the first of two Texas-based solar projects.

WestRock set the stage by entering into virtual power purchase agreements with Houston-based ENGIE North America. The two projects are in Wharton County and Bell County and will add renewable energy to the Texas energy grid.

Bernard Creek Solar is the first of two solar projects that are part of the VPPAs between WestRock and ENGIE, and is currently operating southwest of Houston in Wharton County. WestRock contracted 207 megawatts from the project Under the VPPA. The 230 megawatts Bernard Creek solar project is projected to produce approximately 500,000 megawatts an hour annually, which will generate over $45 million in revenue for the county and create more than 250 jobs during construction.

The WestRock VPPA for the Bernard Creek project, and the similar project located in Bell County, will add a total of 282 megawatts of renewable energy to the Texas energy grid.

"We are delighted that Bernard Creek Solar is supporting WestRock’s ambitions to meet its 2030 science-based targets,” Dave Carroll, chief renewables officer at ENGIE, says in a news release. “North AmericaENGIE’s projects are focused on meeting the specific needs of our clients as we work together to accelerate the energy transition in North America, and this agreement reflects that."

The VPPAs with WestRock have contributed to ENGIE to surpass more than 1 gigawatt of signed power purchases. ENGIE is recognized as the top developer to sell corporate energy PPAs and has ranked in the top three since 2019 with a total corporate PPA portfolio in the USA of 7.3 according to BloombergNEF's latest Market Outlook report. Schneider Electric’s Sustainability Business provided the advisory services and strategy management for these pivotal VPPAs with WestRock.

"We are pleased to play a role in the production of clean energy from large-scale solar projects and to join forces with ENGIE and Schneider Electric to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adding more renewable energy to the grid,” David B. Sewell, president and CEO at WestRock, adds.

The Texas projects are set to come online in 2024. Photo via Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric to invest in Texas clean energy projects with IRA tax credit transfer

shining on solar

Energy management and automation company Schneider Electric is investing in a Texas portfolio of solar and battery storage systems developed, built, and operated by Houston-based ENGIE North America.

The Texas projects are set to come online in 2024. France-based Schneider says the projects will put the company closer to reaching its goal of 100 percent renewable energy in the U.S. and Canada by 2030.

The Schneider investment comes in the form of tax credit transfers enabled by the federal Inflation Reduction Act. A Schneider news release didn’t put a price tag on the investment and didn’t name the Texas projects.

Schneider explains that the federal law enables the transfer of certain federal tax credits from renewable energy, clean energy manufacturing, battery storage and other clean energy projects. These transfers are an alternative to traditional tax equity deals.

“This collaboration with Schneider signals a real step forward in accelerating the net-zero transition,” Dave Carroll, chief renewables officer and senior vice president at ENGIE North America, says in the news release.

Carroll adds that the solar-and-storage portfolio and the tax credit transfers “support the continued growth of renewable energy and storage options in the U.S., which brings economic opportunities to an expanding set of communities alongside the transition to a lower-carbon grid.”

Last month, ENGIE said it had recently wrapped up more than $1 billion in tax equity financing from banking heavyweights BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Chase. The financing went toward 1.3 gigawatts’ worth of clean energy projects.

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Houston renewable energy developer teams up with global commercial real estate biz

collaboration station

Houston-based Catalyze, a developer of independent power systems, has teamed up with commercial real estate services powerhouse Cushman & Wakefield to expand installation of solar panels and battery storage technology at U.S. commercial and industrial properties.

The two companies say the partnership will help owners and tenants of office buildings, warehouses, and other commercial properties reduce utility costs, boost operating income, achieve environmental goals and ease stress on the power grid.

“This partnership marks a significant step forward in our mission to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy among commercial and industrial customers, benefiting both tenants and building owners,” Jared Haines, CEO of Catalyze, says in a news release.

The partnership will enable Cushman & Wakefield to decrease greenhouse gas emissions at facilities it manages for clients as well as its own corporate offices. The real estate sector accounts for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the world.

“Our strategic partnership with Catalyze is a testament to our shared commitment to decarbonize the built environment by being at the forefront of the clean energy revolution,” says Jessica Francisco, Cushman & Wakefield’s chief sustainability officer. “Together, we are poised to advance the adoption of solar and storage technologies while driving down costs for our clients.”

In May, 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.

Houston crews deal with disgruntled residents over power outages after Beryl

Houston, we have a problem

Drawn guns. Thrown rocks. Threatening messages. Houston’s prolonged outages following Hurricane Beryl has some fed-up and frustrated residents taking out their anger on repair workers who are trying to restore power across the city.

The threats and confrontations have prompted police escorts, charges in at least two cases, and pleas from authorities and local officials to leave the linemen alone so they can work.

Beryl knocked out power to nearly 3 million people in Texas — with most of those in the Houston area — after making landfall July 8. The Category 1 storm unleashed heavy rain and winds that uprooted trees and damaged homes and businesses along the Texas Coast and parts of Southeast Texas. State authorities have reported 18 deaths from Beryl. In the Houston area, some have been due to heat exposure following the loss of power, according to the medical examiner’s office in Harris County.

As of Tuesday, crews were still working to restore power to some residents.

“Linemen are our friends and are doing their job. Do not threaten them. I understand you’re angry and mad and frustrated, but let’s get through this together,” Mayor John Whitmire said during a news conference on Monday.

Houston police have investigated at least five cases involving threats made to workers and other employees, whether in person or online.

In one of these cases, police arrested Anthony Leonard, 38, charging him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities allege Leonard on Saturday threw rocks and pointed a gun at a group of CenterPoint Energy workers who were at a staging area.

Leonard remained jailed Tuesday. His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

CenterPoint CEO Jason Wells said over 100 line workers had to be evacuated from the staging area on Saturday. He said such threats are counterproductive as crews have to be moved to safer areas, delaying their work.

“So many of our fellow Houstonians have addressed this situation with patience and grace. And I want to thank them. But unfortunately, there have been instances where either acts of violence have been threatened or actually committed against our crews that are working this vital restoration. This is unacceptable. The safety of our crews is paramount,” Wells said.

KPRC reported that a charge of making a terroristic threat has been filed against a woman from the Houston suburb of Baytown. The Texas Department of Public Safety alleges the woman made multiple online threats of murder, assault and deadly conduct against employees, including Wells, at CenterPoint’s headquarters in downtown Houston. The woman has not been arrested.

Chief Deputy Mike Lee with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said his agency has investigated a break-in of a CenterPoint vehicle and three cases where residents refused to let linemen enter their properties.

Ed Allen, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 66, which represents workers at CenterPoint, said in 42 years in this industry, he’s never seen a response like this where workers are being threatened.

Allen said he spoke to one crew that said while they were working in a suburban Houston neighborhood, several men stood across the street from them and held an assault type rifle in a menacing way.

“It is very disheartening to see the community that I’ve worked in and that I’ve dedicated my life to provide electricity to act the way they have during this event,” Allen said.

Crews on Tuesday told Allen they haven’t received any new threats.

“I hope it’s gotten better out there. Part of that I think has a lot to do with the fact that regardless of what anybody thinks, the restoration effort has gone really well,” Allen said.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, CenterPoint reported that less than 82,000 customers remained without power.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to CenterPoint demanding information from the company, including what actions it will take to reduce or eliminate power outages during future storms and how it will improve communication with its customers before, during and after a weather event.

“Texans must be able to rely on their energy providers to keep the power flowing, even during hurricane season. It is your responsibility to properly prepare for these foreseen incidents and work tirelessly to restore power as quickly as possible when it is lost. Anything less is unacceptable,” Abbott wrote.

In a statement, CenterPoint said it's addressing Abbott's request and that its work with officials and community leaders to increase the resiliency of the electric grid is essential in "creating and sustaining an environment in Texas where people want to live and build their businesses.”

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia said the threats to CenterPoint workers and out-of-town crews only makes “it harder and longer to get your lights back on.”

“These folks are just here trying to help. Let them do their work and help us and tomorrow will be a better day,” Garcia said.

Energy giant announces deal retail company to bring EV tech to Houston malls

plugging in

Two Houston-area malls will be getting bp's electric vehicle charging technology thanks to a new global collaboration.

The global energy company will be bringing its global EV charging business, bp pulse, to 75 shopping facilities across the country thanks to a partnership with Simon Malls. Two malls in town — The Galleria and Katy Mills Mall — soon see bp's EV charging Gigahubs. The company will install and operate the chargers at the two area sites.

The deal aims to deliver over 900 ultra-fast charging bays that will support most make and model of EVs with the first locations opening to the public in early 2026. Other Texas locations include Grapevine Mills in Grapevine, and Austin’s Barton Creek Square.

“We’re pleased to complete this deal with Simon and expand our ultra-fast charging network footprint in the U.S.,” Richard Bartlett, CEO of bp pulse, says in a news release. “The Simon portfolio aligns with bp pulse’s strategy to deploy ultra-fast charging across the West Coast, East Coast, Sun Belt and Great Lakes, and we are thrilled to team up with Simon so that EV drivers have a range of retail offerings at their impressive destinations.”

Last month, bp pulse opened a EV charging station at its North American headquarters in Houston. The company plans to continue deployment of additional charging points at high-demand spots like major metropolitan areas, bp-owned properties, and airports, according to bp.

“As a committed long term infrastructure player with a global network of EV charging solutions, bp pulse intends to continue to seek and build transformative industry collaborations in real estate required to scale our network and match the demand of current and future EV drivers,” Sujay Sharma, CEO bp pulse Americas, adds.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.