Texas Solar For All Coalition and Clean Energy Fund of Texas were two of the 60 recipients of the Solar for All grant competition. Photo via Getty Images

The Biden administration delivered an Earth Day gift with the news that 60 grantees will receive $7 billion in grant awards.

Texas Solar For All Coalition and Clean Energy Fund of Texas were two of the 60 recipients of the Solar for All grant competition. The awardees will provide solar energy to 900,000 low-income households in all 50 states. This is expected to generate an estimated 200,000 jobs as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which includes $405,820,000 in Texas.

“President Biden’s clean energy plan is creating good-paying jobs, reducing emissions, and saving Americans money on their utility bills,” Climate Power Interim States Managing Director André Crombie says in a news release. “Thanks to President Biden, low-income families across Texas will have access to cleaner, cheaper power.”

The Solar for All Program, which was started by the Biden-Harris administration, aims to reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 30 million metric tons over five years, and hopes to improve grid reliability and climate resilience. The award is also part of the Justice40 initiative that aims to ensure that historically underserved communities are given resources to help fight pollution and climate change.

Led by Harris County, Texas SFA is a coalition of Texas counties and cities (Dallas County, Tarrant County, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Waco) that serve over 11 million low-income Texans.

“HARC is proud to be part of the Texas Solar for All Coalition and grateful for the significant support received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help bring the benefits of clean solar power to low-income and disadvantaged communities across Texas," John Hall, HARC’s President and CEO, says in a news release. "Low-income Texans find themselves facing rising energy bills, energy insecurity, and disconnection from the electric grid due to their limited incomes and health-compromising conditions during increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

"Through this Coalition’s delivery of distributed solar, we will be able to provide much-needed locally generated electricity, substantially reduced emissions, and improve the lives of many Texans."

Texas SFA will support home solar panel installation, support workforce training for residents, and battery storage upgrades. The Clean Energy Fund of Texas partnered with Texas Southern University to support clean energy investments at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions in 19 states.

According to a news release, at least 35 percent of grant awardees have engaged local or national labor unions for the estimated 200,000 jobs that will be created.

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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.”