Selected category: Texas

Why Isn’t Texas Saving Energy and Water through Solar Floatovoltaics?

floatovoltaics flickrSymbiosis – in which different species have a cooperative or mutually beneficial relationship – is everywhere in nature: honeybees receive vital nutrients from flowers while delivering pollen (male) directly to the female parts of the flower; pilot fish gain protection from predators, while sharks gain freedom from parasites; and dogs protect their owners, while receiving food and shelter. Cited by some scientists as a major driver of evolution, symbiosis has played an important role in the mutual survival of certain species.

Two elements in nature that are also very symbiotic are energy and water: It takes water to produce and distribute energy, while energy is used to treat, pump, and distribute water. This inextricable link is knowns as the energy-water nexus. Yet, energy and water planners do not treat these important resources as symbiotic “species,” resulting in a lot of waste – something we cannot afford with climate change on the rise.

Floating solar panels atop bodies of water, or the cleverly nicknamed “floatovoltaics,” are a possible solution for both energy and water challenges. The panels help to reduce evaporation of water – critical in hot, dry places like Texas and California – and the water helps to keep the panels cool, increasing their efficiency. Plus, compared to more traditional fuel sources, solar PV requires little to no water to produce electricity. Incorporating more solar energy and relying less on coal or natural gas means greater water savings overall.

Floatovoltaics seem like a win-win solution, but it’s not being deployed on a large scale yet. Some countries and U.S. states have surged ahead in testing this technology. So why isn’t a state like Texas, with big reservoirs, crippling droughts, and lots of solar potential, taking this bull by the horns? Read More »

Also posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Solar Energy| Read 2 Responses

Despite Overwhelming Nationwide Support for Clean Energy, Poll Shows Personal Disconnect

SolarWorker_iStock_000010582663_RF (1)Often lost in greens’ advocacy is how a cleaner environment improves the lives of individuals. People hear, “Save the trees!” or “Use clean energy!” But if you’re out of work or can’t afford the electricity bill, you may ask, “How do these environmental efforts help me and my family?”

Yesterday, the University of Texas released its newest UT Energy Poll, which was conducted in January and concerns nationwide views on energy issues. The results indicate attitudes toward clean energy are overwhelmingly positive. This data also suggests, however, that people do not place as high of a priority on energy issues as they do on more personal issues, such as job creation.

Perhaps people don’t realize the extent to which clean energy and economic gains are actually closely linked. Therefore, investing in clean energy solutions will align with the public’s support and help address their biggest concerns. Read More »

Also posted in Renewable Energy| Read 3 Responses

Feeling Gridlocked? New Report Grades State Power Systems and Inspires Modernization

2016 grid modernization rankings by gridwise alliance and cleanedgeThe GridWise Alliance, a leading business forum for the development of a smart, clean, modern electric grid, just released its 3rd Annual Grid Modernization Index – a ranking of states’ progress towards a more sustainable energy system. The Index goes beyond tracking investments that modernize the electric system; it explores the policies these investments can support, such as increasing efficiency and reducing emissions. The report also delves into the valuable services customers can expect from smart technology investments in the grid.

Grid modernization isn’t simply about replacing aging infrastructure – it’s about managing energy in new ways, namely through sensors and digital communication. Greater visibility and control as a result of these investments can create a dynamic electric system that is more efficient, better manages costs, improves customer service, and protects our limited resources.

In addition to possibly giving your home state something to brag about, the results of this Index offer plenty of useful information on how states have modernized the grid and charted their own course toward making smarter energy choices. Read More »

Also posted in California, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Grid Modernization, Illinois, Solar Energy, Voltage Optimization| Comments are closed

3 Ways Texas’ Grid is Getting Smarter Thanks to DOE’s SunShot Initiative

rp_Pecan-Street-300x199.jpgLast week, GridWise Alliance released its 3rd Annual Grid Modernization Index (GMI), a ranking of every state’s progress toward modernization of our nation's electric system – and Texas impressively placed third. The Alliance, a leading smart grid coalition which includes Environmental Defense Fund, based its assessment on state policies, customer engagement, and investment in advancing grid operations.

As we move toward a smarter, more efficient electric system, Texas is emerging as a leader in grid modernization. And with three recent smart-grid grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, the Lone Star State could climb to the top of the GMI list.

Since 2011, the DOE has awarded millions of dollars through the SunShot Initiative to a variety of public and private entities. The goal is to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade, meaning it would cost the same to get your power from solar as from more traditional sources like coal. In the short amount of time since the program began, the solar industry is already 70 percent of the way there.

As the sixth largest electricity consumer in the country, Texas could greatly contribute to reaching this goal, especially with recent DOE support given to projects run by Austin Energy, Pecan Street, and GeoCF: Read More »

Also posted in Energy Storage, Grid Modernization, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy| Comments are closed

Saving Texas’ Water through Smart Energy Choices in 2016

Desert-Sky-Wind-Farm wikipedia2015 proved to be another weird weather year around the country, especially for Texas. 80 degrees and dry in Austin on Christmas Day, spring wildflowers in bloom, and kids playing outside in shorts – a surprise ending to a wild ride of drought followed by devastating floods followed by drought and then more floods.

Texas is used to drought-flood cycles and extreme weather, but last year the pendulum seemed to swing wildly from one to the next. And climate models predict intense swings for the future as well: After the next flood is another drought, which will likely be more intense and longer than usual due to climate change.

Unfortunately, it seems like during our brief respites from drought, we also take a break from thinking about water scarcity. After the year we’ve just had, this should not be the case – water security should be at the top of Texans’ minds going into 2016. But there are two promising developments for our water future: the Clean Power Plan and examples that cities in other water-stressed Western states are setting. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Energy-Water Nexus| Comments are closed

2015 was a Record Year for PACE in Texas

By: Charlene Heydinger, Executive Director, Keeping PACE in Texas

htown skyline-720075_640 pixabayAs a bustling metropolis and the biggest city in Texas, Houston has a lot of buildings – and that equals a lot of opportunity to make these facilities more energy- and water-efficient.

Houston grabbed headlines last month when it became the first in Texas to adopt a citywide Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. PACE will help Houston building owners undertake much-needed water and energy efficiency improvements through private financing – all without having to worry about steep upfront costs. This move means substantial economic development potential, in addition to environmental benefits, for the nation's fourth largest city.

It’s also a sign this innovative clean energy finance tool is catching fire in Texas: Houston joins Austin’s Travis County, which embraced PACE in March, and a Dallas city ordinance is just on the horizon. Additionally, Cameron and Willacy Counties expect to bring PACE to the Rio Grande Valley in January.

2015 marks a record year for the PACE finance approach across Texas, and interest is growing in several other counties. Even better, all are following the stakeholder-designed PACE in a Box model toolkit – meaning PACE is uniform, user-friendly, and market-based throughout the state. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing| Comments are closed
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