The lighting project is part of a 15-year initiative aimed at boosting Calhoun County’s commitment to solar and other forms of renewable energy. Photo via EnGoPlanet

Houston-based EnGoPlanet is nearing completion of what it touts as the largest installation of solar-powered street lights in the U.S.

The project, which relies on EnGoPlanet’s ENGO Utility program, is in Calhoun County. It features 300 solar-powered, motion-activated street lights and 20 camera-equipped power poles at several Calhoun County parks. Port Lavaca, close to 130 miles southwest of Houston, is the county seat of Calhoun County.

Calhoun County Commissioner David Hall calls the project “a game-changer for innovation in the sustainable energy space.”

The solar-powered street lights were made according to DarkSky guidelines designed to reduce nighttime light pollution.

The lighting project is part of a 15-year initiative aimed at boosting Calhoun County’s commitment to solar and other forms of renewable energy.

“Our work in Calhoun County is a prime example of how collaboration and innovative thinking can create not just economic value, but also profound social and environmental impact. Municipalities and counties should explore many available grants through the Inflation Reduction Act to help fund renewable energy initiatives for their communities,” Petar Mirovic, CEO of EnGoPlanet, says in a news release.

Calhoun County is just one of several places where EnGoPlanet, founded in 2019, has installed solar-powered street lights. Others include Houston, Dallas, Montenegro, Qatar, and Serbia.

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

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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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Texas-based Tesla gets China's initial approval of self-driving software

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Shares of Tesla stock rallied Monday after the electric vehicle maker's CEO, Elon Musk, paid a surprise visit to Beijing over the weekend and reportedly won tentative approval for its driving software.

Musk met with a senior government official in the Chinese capital Sunday, just as the nation’s carmakers are showing off their latest electric vehicle models at the Beijing auto show.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Chinese officials told Tesla that Beijing has tentatively approved the automaker's plan to launch its “Full Self-Driving,” or FSD, software feature in the country.

Although it's called FSD, the software still requires human supervision. On Friday the U.S. government’s auto safety agency said it is investigating whether last year’s recall of Tesla’s Autopilot driving system did enough to make sure drivers pay attention to the road. Tesla has reported 20 more crashes involving Autopilot since the recall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In afternoon trading, shares in Tesla Inc., which is based in Austin, Texas, surged to end Monday up more than 15% — its biggest one-day jump since February 2020. For the year to date, shares are still down 22%.

Tesla has been contending with its stock slide and slowing production. Last week, the company said its first-quarter net income plunged by more than half, but it touted a newer, cheaper car and a fully autonomous robotaxi as catalysts for future growth.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called the news about the Chinese approval a “home run” for Tesla and maintained his “Outperform” rating on the stock.

“We note Tesla has stored all data collected by its Chinese fleet in Shanghai since 2021 as required by regulators in Beijing,” Ives wrote in a note to investors. “If Musk is able to obtain approval from Beijing to transfer data collected in China abroad this would be pivotal around the acceleration of training its algorithms for its autonomous technology globally.”

Houston organization celebrates zero waste goal

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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

Texas hydrogen research hub opens to support statewide, DOE-backed initiative

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A Texas school has cut the ribbon on a new hydrogen-focused research facility that will play a role in a statewide, Department of Energy-funded energy transition initiative.

The Center for Electromechanics at The University of Texas, Frontier Energy, Inc., and GTI Energy celebrated the grand opening of a hydrogen research and demonstration facility in Austin as part of the “Demonstration and Framework for H2@Scale in Texas and Beyond” project, which is supported by the DOE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

The hydrogen proto-hub is first-of-its-kind and part of Texas-wide initiative for a cleaner hydrogen economy and will feature contributions from organizations throughout the state. The facility will generate zero-carbon hydrogen by using water electrolysis powered by solar and wind energy, and steam methane reformation of renewable natural gas from a Texas landfill.

The hydrogen will be used to power a stationary fuel cell for power for the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and it will also supply zero-emission fuel to cell drones and a fleet of Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles. This method will mark the first time that multiple renewable hydrogen supplies and uses have been networked at one location to show an economical hydrogen ecosystem that is scalable.

“The H2@Scale in Texas project builds on nearly two decades of UT leadership in hydrogen research and development” Michael Lewis, Research Scientist, UT Austin Center for Electromechanics, say in a news release. “With this facility, we aim to provide the educated workforce and the engineering data needed for success. Beyond the current project, the hydrogen research facility is well-positioned for growth and impact in the emerging clean hydrogen industry.”

Over 20 sponsors and industry stakeholders are involved and include Houston-based partners in Center for Houston’s Future and Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy. Industry heavyweights like Chevron, Toyota, ConocoPhillips, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are also part of the effort.

Texas hydrogen infrastructure and wind and solar resources position the state for clean hydrogen production, as evident in the recently released study, “A Framework for Hydrogen in Texas.” The study was part of a larger effort that started in 2020 with the H2@Scale project, which aims to develop clearer paths to renewable hydrogen as a “clean and cost-effective fuel” according to a news release. The facility will serve as an academic research center, and a model for future large-scale hydrogen deployments.

Participants in the DOE-funded HyVelocity Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub will aim to gain insights from the H2@Scale project at UT Austin. The project will build towards a development of a comprehensive hydrogen network across the region. HyVelocity is a hub that includes AES Corporation, Air Liquide, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Mitsubishi Power Americas, Orsted, and Sempra Infrastructure. The GTI Energy administered HyVelocity involves The University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Houston’s Future, and Houston Advanced Research Center.

“H2@Scale isn't just about producing low-carbon energy, it's about creating clean energy growth opportunities for communities throughout Texas and the nation,” Adam Walburger, president of Frontier Energy, says in a news release. “By harnessing renewable energy resources to create zero-carbon hydrogen, we can power homes, businesses, transportation, and agriculture – all while creating jobs and reducing emissions.”