Through the new partnership, Sunnova will fold the Lumin Smart Panel energy management platform into its Adaptive Home product. Images via luminsmart.com

Houston-based Sunnova Energy International, a provider of renewable energy for homes and businesses, has teamed up with Lumin, a maker of energy management technology, to roll out a new offering to homeowners.

Through the new partnership, Sunnova will fold the Lumin Smart Panel energy management platform into its Adaptive Home product. The partnership is scheduled to kick off in the first quarter of 2024.

Sunnova’s Adaptive Home combines solar power, battery storage, and smart energy management.

Integration of Lumin Smart Panel into Adaptive Home and Lumin’s energy management software into the Sunnova app is designed to give Sunnova customers more control over energy usage. Sunnova has more than 386,000 solar and battery storage customers.

“Lumin’s smart energy management platform provides the ideal combination of performance, compatibility, and affordability that aligns perfectly with Sunnova’s commitment to powering energy independence,” says Michael Grasso, chief revenue officer of Sunnova.

Kelly Warner, CEO of Charlottesville, Virginia-based Lumin, characterizes the partnership with Sunnova as a “no-brainer” and a “game-changer.”

“Most homeowners investing in solar and storage want access to more than two or three loads during a power outage — they want to control what matters most to them,” adds Alex Bazhinov, founder and president of Lumin.

Sunnova is celebrating the Lumin partnership as it settles into its expanded customer service-focused Global Command Center and gears up for the opening of its Adaptive Technology Center.

The new center will house Sunnova technologies, including a microgrid system powered by a grid simulator and a solar array simulator with the ability to replicate various grid and solar array conditions. Photo via sunnova.com

Solar energy company to open new tech center in Houston

coming soon

A Houston energy services company has announced the upcoming opening of a state-of-the-art energy testing and integration technologies hub.

Sunnova Energy International Inc. will open the Sunnova Adaptive Technology Center in 2024. The center, which will come sometime in the first quarter of the year, is part of Sunnova Adaptive Home, Sunnova Adaptive Business, and Sunnova Adaptive Community service offerings. Founded in Houston in 2012, Sunnova aims to “create a better energy service at a better price.”

The ATC will house Sunnova technologies, including a microgrid system powered by a grid simulator and a solar array simulator with the ability to replicate various grid and solar array conditions. An interchangeable inverter and battery test beds, and a fully-functioning model home equipped with full-sized appliances, including a range, oven, refrigerator and HVAC system, will also be part of the new ATC.

This will assist Sunnova engineering teams to perform system level validation to integrate disparate technologies for reliable operation during various grid, solar and home conditions. The ATC will also be the home for service technicians that help with customer issues.

"We've always been committed to ensuring high standards of quality and service excellence for our customers," William J. (John) Berger, CEO at Sunnova, says in a news release. "With the ATC, both our customers and dealers can trust that they are partnering with a company that has an unwavering focus on innovative technologies, integrated energy solutions, quality control, and service excellence."

This announcement comes just two months after the completed expansion of Sunnova’s Global Command Center, which is a similar facility that works with cutting-edge technologies, and customer service. The ATC will also continue to develop its customer-facing experiences like the Sunnova App, and its Sunnova Sentient technology platform, which works with energy management.

“The ATC won’t be a static configuration, but a responsive, flexible arrangement that will effectively pull together top, industry-leading technologies to deliver customized energy solutions to our customers,” Michael Grasso, executive vice president and chief revenue officer at Sunnova, says in the release. “It’s a tremendous effort to qualify hardware and integrate all the technologies we work with – but doing all of this ensures the services reaching our customers are top of the line.”

Here were the top energy transition interviews on EnergyCapital — according to its readers. Photos courtesy

Who's who: These were the top 5 Houston energy transition interviews of 2023

Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, EnergyCapital is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston energy transition. EnergyCapital launched specifically to cover the energy transition community — and that includes the people who power it. With weekly interviews, we spoke to dozens of these individuals and some resonated more than others to readers. Be sure to click through to read the full interviews or stream the podcast episode.

Kelsey Hultberg, executive vice president of corporate communications and sustainability at Sunnova Energy

Kelsey Hultberg, executive vice president of corporate communications and sustainability at Sunnova Energy, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Sunnova

Several years ago, Kelsey Hultberg decided to make a pivot. Looking for a role with career growth opportunities, the communications professional thought she'd find something at an oil and gas company, but then she met John Berger, founder and CEO of Sunnova, who was looking for someone to stand up their communications team amidst the solar energy company's growth.

"He hooked me," Hultberg shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "He said, 'I've got big plans for this company. I see where this energy industry is going, I see that we're prime for a transition, and I want to take this company public.' And I started a few weeks later."

Hultberg has been telling the story for Sunnova — which equips customers with solar and storage technology, providing them with energy independence — ever since, through scaling, new technologies, and its IPO in 2019.

Continue reading the interview from October.

PJ Popovic, CEO and founder of Rhythm Energy

Houston-based Rhythm Energy CEO and founder, PJ Popovic, discusses the landscape of Texas' energy market and how renewables should be incorporated. Photo courtesy of Rhythm

After experiencing the hottest day on record this past Fourth of July, PJ Popovic — CEO and founder of green energy retailer Rhythm Energy — explained what extreme temperatures like these mean for Texas’ energy market and the role renewables will play in addressing increased demand response.

Headquartered in Houston, Rhythm Energy launched two years ago and offers a variety of 100 percent renewable energy backed plans, from wind to solar. Popovic discussed with EnergyCapital where he thinks renewables fit into Texas’ energy consumption and grid reliability issues in an interview.

Continue reading the interview from July.

Aniruddha Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Carbon Clean

Aniruddha Sharma of Carbon Clean weighs in on his North American expansion, the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, and more. Photo via carbonclean.com

Earlier this year, a growing carbon capture company announced its new North American headquarters in Houston. Now, the company is focused on doubling it's headcount before the end of 2023 to meet demand.

Carbon Clean, which has a technology that has captured nearly two million tons of carbon dioxide at almost 50 sites around the world, opened its new office in the Ion earlier this year. The company is now building out its local supply chain with plans to rapidly expand.

In an interview with EnergyCapital, Co-Founder, Chair, and CEO Aniruddha Sharma weighs in on the new office, how pivotal the Inflation Reduction Act has been for his company's growth, and the future of Carbon Clean.

Continue reading the interview from August.

Vibhu Sharma, founder of InnoVent Renewables

Vibhu Sharma founded InnoVent Renewables to make a sustainable impact on tire waste. Photo courtesy

With over a billion cars currently on the road — each with four tires that will eventually end up discarded, one Houstonian is hoping to create the infrastructure to sustainably dispose of tire waste now and into the future.

Announced earlier this month, Vibhu Sharma founded InnoVent Renewables to establish production facilities that utilize a proprietary continuous pyrolysis technology that is able to convert waste tires, plastics, and biomass into fuels and chemicals.

In a Q&A with EnergyCapital, Sharma explains his plans to sustainably impact the tire waste space and his vision for his company.

Continue reading the interview from September.

Cindy Taff, founder and CEO of Sage Geosystems

In a Q&A with EnergyCapital, Cindy Taff of Sage Geosystems explains why she's so optimistic about geothermal and her company's technology. Photo courtesy of Sage

Geothermal energy is an integral part of decarbonizing the energy industry, and Sage Geosystems CEO Cindy Taff believes her company's tech has what it takes to lead the way.

Founded in Houston in 2020, Sage Geosystems is focused on two business lines — energy storage and geothermal. In addition to developing these technologies, Taff says Sage has "cracked the code" on both reducing costs and maximizing electricity output. Sage has customers ranging from Nabors, the world’s largest land-based drilling company, and Virya LLC, an investor in climate ventures with high impact of eliminating global greenhouse gas emissions or sequestering CO2

In a Q&A with EnergyCapital, she explains why she's so optimistic about geothermal and her company's technology.

Continue reading the interview from December.

Sunnova's platform is expanding in Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy of

Houston solar company expands in Puerto Rico, receives DOE funding

island opportunities

A Houston renewable energy company has announced two initiatives that are hoping to provide more grid stability on the island of Puerto Rico.

Sunnova announced that it's expanding its Sunnova Sentient Virtual Power Plant platform. The company has also been selected by the United States Department of Energy’s Grid Deployment Office to be a part of a $440 million investment from the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund.

Sunnova's VPP platform is expanding in Puerto Rico through a collaboration between the Sunnova Power Flex Program and LUMA's Customer Battery Energy Sharing program in Puerto Rico. This plan is "to transform the role of distributed solar and storage customers in enhancing grid stability during peak demand periods, all while offering them financial incentives for their participation," according to Sunnova's release.

Puerto Rican residents can opt into the Sunnova Flex Power Program and will be compensated for the power supplied by their batteries. According to Sunnova, a battery could earn up to $1,000 for this first pilot year.

“We are incredibly excited about the possibilities that our industry-leading VPP platform—delivered to our customers through our Sunnova Flex Power Program—holds for the people of Puerto Rico,” John Berger, CEO of Sunnova, says in the release. “As we continue to spearhead the transition towards a cleaner and more robust future, extending our VPP platform will not only help reshape the energy landscape in Puerto Rico but also empower our valued customers to play an integral role in bolstering grid stability. We eagerly anticipate the transformative impact this program will have on our customers and the Puerto Rican community at large.”

Sunnova has 52,000 solar and storage customers on the island and has installed storage to a capacity of 800 MWh.

“We're excited to collaborate with Sunnova on this important initiative, which signifies a major step in our ongoing efforts to enhance energy reliability for Puerto Rico. We're dedicated to achieving a more stable energy supply, reducing disruptions, and securing a resilient energy future, ultimately benefiting the people of Puerto Rico,” Jessica Laird, VP of Customer Experience at LUMA, says in the statement.

Sunnova's selection by the DOE Grid Deployment Office makes the company one of the eight to receive chunk of a $440 million commitment to install rooftop solar and batteries in PR.

Kelsey Hultberg, executive vice president of corporate communications and sustainability at Sunnova Energy, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Sunnova

Houston expert on importance of messaging when scaling an energy transition company

comms 101

Several years ago, Kelsey Hultberg decided to make a pivot. Looking for a role with career growth opportunities, the communications professional thought she'd find something at an oil and gas company, but then she met John Berger, founder and CEO of Sunnova, who was looking for someone to stand up their communications team amidst the solar energy company's growth.

"He hooked me," Hultberg shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "He said, 'I've got big plans for this company. I see where this energy industry is going, I see that we're prime for a transition, and I want to take this company public.' And I started a few weeks later."

Hultberg has been telling the story for Sunnova — which equips customers with solar and storage technology, providing them with energy independence — ever since, through scaling, new technologies, and its IPO in 2019.

Each phase of the company represented different challenges for Hultberg and her communications team. As she explains on the podcast, consistently conveying a strong message is key in any industry, but especially energy.

"Communication is critical," Hultberg says, "having a strategy and really being able to articulate who you are, what you stand for, what is your mission, what is your vision — and really beyond that, what is your strategy for how you move forward. ... You can never say the same thing to the same people too many times, especially when you're a company that some people have never heard of before."

And while there's a unique challenge to communications for energy transition companies, Hultberg says she views it as a huge opportunity as long as you have the right structure in place.

"Of course communications and being as strategic as possible with the story that you're telling and the narrative that you're weaving for your different audiences, but then you layer on an industry that's rapidly changing and is tumultuous at times," she says. "Being able to come back to the core mission and values is really incredible."

Hultberg says that when she originally joined the team in 2017, she thought a solar energy company in Houston was an interesting choice — and it was. Texas was not one of Sunnova's biggest markets at the time, Hultberg explains, but things are different now.

"Over the last couple of years, especially after Winter Storm Uri, where you saw a lot of people go without power. ... We had a lot of customers say, 'That can't happen again,'" she says. "You're seeing the adoption and uptick in solar in storage because they are looking for grid reliability and affordability and they aren't getting it from their utility providers."

———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

A geothermal startup from Houston made a global list of climate tech companies to watch — and more things to know this week. Photo via Getty Images

3 things to know this week in Houston's energy transition ecosystem

take note

Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to know in Houston's energy transition ecosystem: solar projects makke headlines, Fervo named an energy company to keep an eye on, and more.

Fervo Energy named an energy tech startup to watch

Photo via fervoenergy.com

MIT Technology Review released its list of 15 Climate Tech Companies to Watch this year, and Fervo Energy, a Houston-based, rapidly scaling geothermal energy company made the cut.

"Fervo’s enhanced geothermal approach promises to significantly expand the areas where we could tap into the carbon-free and nearly limitless source of energy beneath our feet. Geothermal offers the added advantage of generating electricity around the clock and calendar, making it an ideal clean source to fill in the gaps as grids increasingly come to rely on fluctuating renewables like solar and wind," reads the writeup on the company.

"It could provide a much cheaper or less controversial way of fixing that fundamental challenge in cleaning up the grid than building giant battery plants or adding nuclear power reactors, respectively," the MIT Technology Review continues.

Fervo, which announced earlier this year that its commercial pilot project has resulted in continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production, has raised $187 million since it was founded in 2017.

The article points to not only the accomplishments of the startup, but also the challenges it faces, including further proving out its technology's "effectively, affordably, and consistently on larger scales."

Events not to miss

People huddled in groups for networking

Photo via Getty Images

Put these upcoming events on your radar.

  • October 10-11 — SPRINT Robotics World Conference and Exhibition will show that many robots are in use and that the industry is accelerating and starting to scale. Learn more.
  • October 11-12 — Hydrogen North America 2023 will showcase the hydrogen economy and provoke thought leadership from the industry's experts. Learn more.
  • October 30-31 — Fuze is a must-attend event for executives, investors, and founders serious about solving the energy crisis and boosting company efficiency. Learn more.

A moment for the solar energy news

Photo via Getty Images

Last week, there was a few big stories across solar energy.

  • Sunnova announced a loan from the DOE for up to $5 billion. Read more.
  • A Houston nonprofit powers its community outreach to Houston's food deserts with mobile solar energy.Read more.
  • BP broke ground on its Texas solar farm that it plans to open next year. Read more.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Shell fuels energy transition with roll out of EV charging stations

coming soon

As it downshifts sales of fuel for traditional vehicles, energy giant Shell is stepping up its commitment to public charging stations for electric vehicles.

In a new report on energy transition, Shells lays out an aggressive plan for growing its public network of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The company plans to boost the global number of public EV charging stations from about 54,000 today to around 70,000 by 2025 and about 200,000 by 2030.

The projected growth from today to 2030 would represent a 270 percent increase in the number of Shell-operated EV charging stations.

“We have a major competitive advantage in terms of locations, as our global network of service stations is one of the largest in the world,” Shell says in the report.

Shell’s global network of service stations is shrinking, though. In the report, the company reveals plans to close a total of 1,000 gas stations in 2024 and 2025. Today, more than 45,000 Shell-branded gas stations are located in over 90 countries.

Aside from Shell gas stations, the company’s Shell Recharge business unit operates public EV charging stations along streets, at grocery stores, and at other locations in 33 countries.

Shell, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, is ramping up its EV charging network amid forecasts of slowing demand for oil and rising demand for EVs. Other than EV charging, Shell is focusing on biofuels and integrated power as components of its revamped product mix.

“Shell is well positioned to become a profitable leader in public charging for electric vehicles, meeting the growing demand from drivers who need to charge on the go,” the report says.

To accelerate its EV charging presence in the U.S., Shell in 2023 purchased Volta, a San Francisco-based operator of EV charging stations. Shell says it now operates one of the largest public EV charging networks in the U.S., with more than 3,000 charging points in 31 states and another 3,400 under development.

“The availability of charging points will be critical for the growth in electric vehicles,” the report says.

Last month, Shell divested from a solar energy subsidiary, before later announcing an exit from a wind energy joint venture.

"In-line with our Powering Progress strategy, Shell continues to hone our portfolio of renewable generation projects in key markets where we have an advantaged position," Glenn Wright, senior vice president at Shell Energy Americas, said in a news release at the time.

Rice names new leader for prestigious nanotechnology, materials science institute

take the lead

A distinguished Rice University professor has assumed the reins of a unique institute that focuses on research within nanoscience, quantum science, and materials science.

Junichiro Kono has assumed leadership of the Smalley-Curl Institute, which houses some of the world’s most accomplished researchers across fields including advanced materials, quantum magnetism, plasmonics and photonics, biophysics and bioengineering, all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology, and more.

“With his great track record in fostering international research talent — with student exchange programs between the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and France that have introduced hundreds of students to new cultures and ways of researching science and engineering — Jun brings a wealth of experience in building cultural and technological ties across the globe,” Ramamoorthy Ramesh, executive vice president for research, says in a news release.

Kono is the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor in Engineering, chair of the Applied Physics Graduate Program and professor of electrical and computer engineering, physics and astronomy and materials science and nanoengineering, and is considered a global leader in studies of nanomaterials and light-matter interactions. He currently leads Rice’s top 10-ranked Applied Physics Graduate Program.

Under his leadership, the program is expected to double in size over. By 2029. The Smalley-Curl Institute will also add additional postdoctoral research fellowships to the current three endowed positions.

The Smalley-Curl Institute is named for Nobel Laureates Richard Smalley and Robert Curl (‘54). Earlier in his career, Kono once worked with Smalley on the physical properties of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), which led to the experimental discovery of the Aharonov-Bohm effect on the band structure of SWCNTs in high magnetic fields.

“I am deeply honored and excited to lead the Smalley-Curl Institute,” Kono says in a news release. “The opportunity to build upon the incredible legacy of Richard Smalley and Robert Curl is both a privilege and a challenge, which I embrace wholeheartedly. I’m really looking forward to working with the talented researchers and students at Rice University to further advance our understanding and application of nanomaterials and quantum phenomena. Together, we can accomplish great things.”

Kono succeeds Rice professor Naomi Halas as director of the institute. Halas is the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the founding director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics.