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University of Houston plans to build new central campus innovation hub

The University of Houston will construct a new hub for innovation on its main campus. The building is planned to be adjacent to the M.D. Anderson Library. Photo via uh.edu

Over a year ago, the University of Houston got the greenlight from the state of Texas to create a central hub for innovation on campus, Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at the University of Houston, tells InnovationMap.

“We asked the state two years ago for appropriations to create an innovation hub at the University of Houston,” Krishnamoorti says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. “We are now in the process of creating an innovation hub central to the campus at the University of Houston."

While the project is still in its early stages, the university has revealed some details on the building, which is slated to open in 2025 next to the M.D. Anderson Library on UH's main campus. It will be around 70,000 square feet and will house a makerspace, the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the Energy Transition Institute, innovation programs, and Presidential Frontier Faculty labs and offices.

“This would be a space that would look at innovation across all areas — arts, social sciences, STEM, business,” Krishnamoorti says. “We’re going to build this innovation hub as a central place of gathering for everything innovation on campus."

One of the aspects of the hub Krishnamoorti says he's excited about is the makerspace.

"Students can come in there and make, create, and visualize their dreams," Krishnamoorti says, explaining that this will be accessible to all students. "This could be everything from clever art to architectural designs to a widget for a STEM-related target they are working on."

In addition to creating lab space for further research and innovation, the hub will be a convening spot — both for the university's campus as well as the greater Houston business community. Krishnamoorti says a goal of this project is to be able to bring in subject matter experts from industry and have them spend time with on campus with students.

"There's all this talent that's out there — but we don't give them a place to come in and engage the future generations," Krishnamoorti says. "This is an effort to provide a venue to create those unexpected, unanticipated collisions, create a talent pipeline, engage with experts, and build activities that will very quickly de-bottleneck some of the biggest challenges we have in the innovation space."

Currently, UH is calling for support from perspective and existing donors for the project.


The UH Innovation Hub is in its early stages. Photo via uh.edu

This article originally ran on Innovation Map.


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A View From HETI

In Texas last month, coal use dropped and solar energy soared, according to a new report. Photo via Pexels

For the first time in Texas, according to a recent report, solar energy generation surpassed the output by coal.

The report — from the Institute For Energy Economics and Financial Analysis — sourced the Energy Information Administration’s hourly grid monitor for March 2024. This shift in a predominantly oil and gas dominated history of Texas energy output, was due to solar power’s 3.26 million megawatt-hours to Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid, compared to coal’s 2.96 million MWh.

In addition, coal’s market share fell below 10 percent to 9 percent for the first time ever, to just over 9 percent. The increase in solar energy pushed solar’s share of ERCOT generation to more than 10 percent for the month, which was also a first.

Due to its sheer size, Texas is the No.1 state for solar capacity. According to the report from SmartAsset, the Lone Star State has the most clean energy capacity at 56,405 megawatts, but continues to trail states with similar geographic characteristics in overall clean energy prevalence.

Texas only 38 percent of the state’s electricity capacity comes from clean electricity, and it has the second-largest solar capacity, which means Texas has the most means, space, and potential to accommodate cleaner electricity. Texas as a whole, ranked No. 22 on the list for states with the most clean energy in the SmartAsset report.

In Texas, generation in March 2024 was 1.17 million MWh more year-over-year, which is a 56 percent increase. ERCOT data shows that the system currently has 22,710 megawatts (MW) of operational solar capacity according to IEEFA, and is expected to expand by almost one-third by the end of 2024 with an additional 7,168 MW of capacity added. The number just considers Texas solar projects that have set aside the financing required to get onto the ERCOT grid and that have a signed interconnection agreement.

Texas burned 50.7 million tons of coal for electricity, which was 13 percent of the U.S. total in 2023 according to the EIA grid monitor. Coal's annual share of ERCOT demand ranged from 36 percent to 40 percent from 2003 through 2014. The last year percent. In 2020, coal was under 20 percent in 2020; and was less than 15 percent in 2023 supplying just 13.9 percent of the system’s total demand.

The IEEFA notes coal’s low March production is important because in recent years it has been the moderate temperatures of April and May and steady winds that have affected the usage and the market share.

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