Aggreko’s Energy Transition Solutions division acquired a portfolio of nine community solar projects in the state of New York. Photo courtesy of Aggreko

A Houston-based energy solution company has made some big moves on the East Coast.

Aggreko’s Energy Transition Solutions division acquired a portfolio of nine community solar projects in the state of New York.

The ground-mounted installations will total approximately 59 MW of generating capacity Aggreko ETS also successfully connected the first of the nine projects to the grid, a 5.9 MWdc project in the town of Vernon, 40 miles east of Syracuse.

The nine community solar sites aim to assist low-and-moderate income New Yorkers in benefiting from clean solar energy without residential solar installations.

Aggreko ETS will be in charge of the construction of these projects. Aggreko, which is headquartered in Houston, is actively investing in more sustainable products, fuels, innovative technology, and services to make greener solutions accessible.

“We’re thrilled to complete this important transaction, which reinforces Aggreko’s capabilities as an experienced renewable energy developer, owner, and operator that can deftly structure and execute complicated asset acquisitions to scale its business,” says Prashanth Prakash, Aggreko ETS’s chief commercial officer in a news release.

According to a report, In the fourth quarter, Texas is expected to add about 3.7 gigawatts of solar capacity — more than the combined total for the previous three quarters. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Texas expected to shine as top state for solar installations in 2023

fourth quarter push

When all the numbers are tallied, 2023 should be a very sunny year for solar installations in Texas.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, SEIA, and energy research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie predict Texas will be the top state for solar installations in 2023. In the fourth quarter, Texas is expected to add about 3.7 gigawatts of solar capacity — more than the combined total for the previous three quarters.

In 2021, Texas added nearly 6.07 gigawatts of solar capacity, with that figure falling to more than 3.66 gigawatts in 2022. But for 2023, SEIA and Wood Mackenzie anticipate Texas having added almost 6.24 gigawatts of solar capacity for residential, business, and utility customers.

A report released last week by SEIA and Wood Mackenzie indicates that sales volume for solar installations has declined in Texas and some other states due in part to higher costs for financing solar equipment. Solar sales volume in Texas started dropping off in late 2022 and has continued to shrink, says the report.

Wood Mackenzie forecasts 13 percent growth for the U.S. residential solar market in 2023. The report predicts the U.S. will have added 33 gigawatts of residential solar capacity in 2023, up from a record-setting 6.5 gigawatts in 2022. The U.S. added 6.5 gigawatts of residential solar capacity in the third quarter of 2023 alone, says the report.

“Solar remains the fastest-growing energy source in the United States, and despite a difficult economic environment, this growth is expected to continue for years to come,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “To maintain this forecasted growth, we must modernize regulations and reduce bureaucratic roadblocks to make it easier for clean energy companies to invest capital and create jobs.”

Solar accounted for nearly half (48 percent) of all new electric-generating capacity during the first three quarters of 2023, bringing total installed solar capacity in the U.S. to 161 gigawatts across 4.7 million installations. By 2028, U.S. solar capacity is expected to reach 377 gigawatts, enough to power more than 65 million homes.

“The U.S. solar industry is on a strong growth trajectory, with expectations of 55 percent growth this year and 10 percent growth in 2024,” says Michelle Davis, head of solar research at Wood Mackenzie.

“Growth is expected to be slower starting in 2026 as various challenges like interconnection constraints become more acute,” she adds. “It’s critical that the industry continue to innovate to maximize the value that solar brings to an increasingly complex grid. Interconnection reform, regulatory modernization, and increasing storage attachment rates will be key tools.”

BP's solar park is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2024. Photo via bp.com

BP breaks ground​ on Texas solar farm, plans to open it next year

sun-powered peacock

British energy giant BP, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, has started construction on a 187-megawatt solar farm about 10 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.

The Peacock Solar facility will generate power for a nearby chemical complex operated by Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, a joint venture between Spring-based energy company ExxonMobil and SABIC, a Saudi Arabian chemical conglomerate whose products are used to make clothes, food containers, packaging, agricultural film, and construction materials. SABIC’s Americas headquarters is in Houston.

Gulf Coast Growth Ventures opened the plant in 2022. The joint venture says the ethylene cracker and derivatives complex, located northwest of the town of Gregory, employs about 600 people.

BP says the solar project, which is expected to create about 300 construction jobs, will produce enough energy each year to power the equivalent of 34,000 homes. The solar park is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2024.

“We want to be good stewards of our environment,” Paul Fritsch, president of Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, says in a BP news release. “Once online, the solar-generated electricity will be used to partially power our plant and help reduce emissions in support of a net-zero future.”

At full capacity, Peacock’s renewable power could keep more than 256,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere each year, BP says.

BP’s joint venture partner, British solar company Lightsource BP, is developing the solar project and managing construction on behalf of BP. In 2017, BP bought a 43 percent stake in Lightsource and now holds a 50 percent stake.

Canadian contractor PCL Construction is providing construction and engineering services for the solar setup, and Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar and Norwalk, Connecticut-based GameChange Solar are supplying the solar equipment.

Energy sources are often categorized as renewable or not, but perhaps a more accurate classification focuses on the type of reaction that converts energy into useful matter. Photo by simpson33/Getty Images

How is energy produced?

ENERGY 101

Many think of the Energy Industry as a dichotomy–old vs. new, renewable vs. nonrenewable, good vs. bad. But like most things, energy comes from an array of sources, and each kind has its own unique benefits and challenges. Understanding the multi-faceted identity of currently available energy sources creates an environment in which new ideas for cleaner and more sustainable energy sourcing can proliferate.

At a high level, energy can be broadly categorized by the process of extracting and converting it into a useful form.

Energy Produced from Chemical Reaction

Energy derived from coal, crude oil, natural gas, and biomass is primarily produced as a result of bonds breaking during a chemical reaction. When heated, burned, or fermented, organic matter releases energy, which is converted into mechanical or electrical energy.

These sources can be stored, distributed, and shared relatively easily and do not have to be converted immediately for power consumption. However, the resulting chemical reaction produces environmentally harmful waste products.

Though the processes to extract these organic sources of energy have been refined for many years to achieve reliable and cheap energy, they can be risky and are perceived as invasive to mother nature.

According to the 2022 bp Statistical Review of World Energy, approximately 50% of the world’s energy consumption comes from petroleum and natural gas; another 25% from coal. Though there was a small decline in demand for oil from 2019 to 2021, the overall demand for fossil fuels remained unchanged during the same time frame, mostly due to the increase in natural gas and coal consumption.

Energy Produced from Mechanical Reaction

Energy captured from the earth’s heat or the movement of wind and water results from the mechanical processes enabled by the turning of turbines in source-rich environments. These turbines spin to produce electricity inside a generator.

Solar energy does not require the use of a generator but produces electricity due to the release of electrons from the semiconducting materials found on a solar panel. The electricity produced by geothermal, wind, solar, and hydropower is then converted from direct current to alternating current electricity.

Electricity is most useful for immediate consumption, as storage requires the use of batteries–a process that turns electrical energy into chemical energy that can then be accessed in much the same way that coal, crude oil, natural gas, and biomass produce energy.

Energy Produced from a Combination of Reactions

Hydrogen energy comes from a unique blend of both electrical and chemical energy processes. Despite hydrogen being the most abundant element on earth, it is rarely found on its own, requiring a two-step process to extract and convert energy into a usable form. Hydrogen is primarily produced as a by-product of fossil fuels, with its own set of emissions challenges related to separating the hydrogen from the hydrocarbons.

Many use electrolysis to separate hydrogen from other elements before performing a chemical reaction to create electrical energy inside of a contained fuel cell. The electrolysis process is certainly a more environmentally-friendly solution, but there are still great risks with hydrogen energy–it is highly flammable, and its general energy output is less than that of other electricity-generating methods.

Energy Produced from Nuclear Reaction

Finally, energy originating from the splitting of an atom’s nucleus, mostly through nuclear fission, is yet another way to produce energy. A large volume of heat is released when an atom is bombarded by neutrons in a nuclear power plant, which is then converted to electrical energy.

This process also produces a particularly sensitive by-product known as radiation, and with it, radioactive waste. The proper handling of radiation and radioactive waste is of utmost concern, as its effects can be incredibly damaging to the environment surrounding a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear fission produces minimal carbon, so nuclear energy is oft considered environmentally safe–as long as strict protocols are followed to ensure proper storage and disposal of radiation and radioactive waste.

Nuclear to Mechanical to Chemical?

Interestingly enough, the Earth’s heat comes from the decay of radioactive materials in the Earth’s core, loosely linking nuclear power production back to geothermal energy production.

It’s also clear the conversion of energy into electricity is the cleanest option for the environment, yet adequate infrastructure remains limited in supply and accessibility. If not consumed immediately as electricity, energy is thus converted into a chemical form for the convenience of storage and distribution it provides.

Perhaps the expertise and talent of Houstonians serving the flourishing academic and industrial sectors of energy development will soon resolve many of our current energy challenges by exploring further the circular dynamic of the energy environment. Be sure to check out our Events Page to find the networking event that best serves your interest in the Energy Transition.


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Lindsey Ferrell is a contributing writer to EnergyCapitalHTX and founder of Guerrella & Co.

Going solar is now easier thanks to city and federal help. Photo courtesy of Houston Solar Tour

Houston charges up new program to help locals buy and install affordable solar panels

sunny days

Alternative-energy-seeking locals now have a sunny way to buy into a solar. The City of Houston has launched Texas Solar SwitchHouston, a new program aimed at helping Houstonians purchase and install rooftop solar panels and battery storage.

In partnership with Solar United Neighbors, the Solar Switch program offers hassle-free way to purchase solar panels by creating a massive, group discount for residents, be it home or small business needs.

This comes with the new Inflation Reduction Act’s clean energy incentives and is part of the City of Houston's Climate Action Plan goal to generate 5 million MWh per year of local solar, per a press release. Customers who install solar also receive a 30-percent tax credit, thanks to the The Inflation Reduction Act.

Registration for the program is free and available online. The City of Houston assures that there is "no obligation for homeowners to purchase solar panels." Discounts and installers are determined through a competitive auction process, per the City.

"With energy prices increasing, homeowners and small businesses are looking for opportunities to save on their energy bills and increase their resilience to climate-related events," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "Texas Solar Switch Houston provides our community with a simple and straightforward way to become better informed about solar energy and access a competitive offer from a vetted, experienced solar installation company."

Signed and passed into law by the Biden Administration in August, the Inflation Reduction Act will invest some $369 billion in domestic energy production and manufacturing with a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. That federal mandate means locals can now take steps towards power backup, while potentially easing up on the beleaguered Texas grid.

“More and more Houstonians are looking to solar and battery storage for self-sufficiency, which has the added benefit of making our grid more resilient,” said Hanna Mitchell, Texas program director for Solar United Neighbors, in a statement. “With the recent passage of the IRA, now is a particularly good time to go solar.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Sunny Houston fails to place on Thumbtack's new list. Photo by Adrian N on Unsplash

New report throws shade on Houston's renewable energy use in 'solar cities' ranking

(Not so) sunny news

As the cost of solar panel installation becomes more attainable to homeowners, more Americans are willing to reduce their carbon emissions and their electricity bills in the process.

So just where does Houston rank in new tech like solar panel installation? According to a new report from home service management platform Thumbtack, it doesn't.

Houston, which has no shortage of sun — as residents are well aware — fails to place in Thumbtack's new list of the top 15 most "solar" cities in the United States.

Austin leads the way for Texas, ranking the No. 3 most “solar” city in the U.S., per Thumbtack. Austin, with the highest net-new solar panel installations within the past year in Texas, splits up four Californian cities in the top five. Only San Diego (No. 1) and Los Angeles (No. 2) outranked Austin.

San Antonio follows not behind atNo. 9 and just outside the top 10 is Dallas-Fort Worth at No. 11.

For the curious, Texas Property Code 202.010 forbids homeowner associations from restricting the installation of solar panels, so any Texas homeowner can do it as long as they follow the standard procedure for “improving” their home to comply with a separate state law.

Thumbtack home expert David Steckel said in a press release that they chose to focus the report on cities with the most new solar installations because they wanted to “celebrate those [cities] making the biggest change.”

“When we looked at all solar projects – from installations to modifications, repairs, consultations and more – we found that unsurprisingly, California dominated the list with 9 out of the top 10 spots – given their long-term commitment to and adoption of solar energy," he said. "We really wanted to celebrate cities that are seeing a shift in behavior.”

The top 10 most “solar” cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – San Diego
  • No. 2 – Los Angeles
  • No. 3 – Austin
  • No. 4 – Palm Springs, California
  • No. 5 – San Francisco
  • No. 6 – Las Vegas
  • No. 7 – Phoenix
  • No. 8 – Orlando
  • No. 9 – San Antonio
  • No. 10 – Tampa, Florida

Steckel said the company has seen a year-over-year increase of up to 96 percent in solar energy projects among consumers for March 2023.

“We recently found that 71 percent of Americans are prioritizing sustainable, energy-efficient home improvement projects this year – with more than one-third of Americans planning to install solar panels in 2023 – showing an accelerating change in consumer behavior,” he said.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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New global report names top cleantech startups to keep an eye on

seeing green

Nine Greentown Labs members were recognized on a global list honoring cleantech companies.

Houston-based Fervo Energy was named to Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech 100 report. Cleantech Group is a research-driven company that aids the public sector, private sector, investors, and also identifies, assesses, and engages with the innovative solutions around climate challenges.

Fervo, a geothermal energy company that specializes in a renewable energy technology that uses hot water to produce electricity, debuted in 2022 on the list, and was honored in the “Energy & Power” category for the second straight year.

The other Greentown Labs, which is dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, companies recognized on the list include:

  • Amogy, a New York-based novel carbon-free energy system using ammonia as a renewable fuel
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Canadian waste and carbon utilization company
  • Dandelion Energy, New York-based company offering ground source heat pumps for most homes
  • Energy Dome, a Milan-based company addressing the problem of long-duration energy storage
  • e-Zinc, a Canadian company with a breakthrough electrochemical technology for energy storage
  • Nth Cycle, a Massachusetts company with sustainable metal refining
  • Raptor Maps, a Massachusetts company with a software platform for solar assets' performance data management
  • Sublime Systems, a Massachusetts companydeveloping a breakthrough process for low-carbon cement
  • WeaveGrid, a California company working with utilities, automakers, EVSEs, and EV owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation

The number of nominations from the public, a panel, i3, awards and Cleantech Group totaled 25,435 from over 65 countries, which is a 61% increase from the 2023 nomination process. Winners were chosen from a short list of 330 companies by a panel of over 80 industry experts.

While not on the list, Beaumont-based Fortress Energy was mentioned for its electrolyzer supply agreement with Cleantech Group 100 winner Electric Hydrogen.

The Cleantech Group 100 was started 15 years ago.

“In 15 more years, we will be at 2039—by which time, a mere decade out from the ‘net-zero’ target of 2050,” Cleantech Group CEO Richard Youngman says in the report. “I would expect the composition of our annual list to have markedly changed again, and the leading upcoming private companies of that time to reflect such.”

Houston startup taps new corporate partner for AI-backed sustainability consumer tech

out of the boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.