Research competition invites students to solve real-world energy problems

Reviewing residential electricity data in Pecan Street's Pike Powers Lab.

By Maddie Venn, clean energy communications intern

Recently, it seems like everyone is competing to become the next big thing in the energy sector. Whether it’s electric vehicles, smart grid technology, or energy storage, innovation continues to pop up left and right as we work to build a smarter, cleaner electric grid.

If innovation and technology spark your competitive drive, here’s your opportunity to dive in and join a community of engaged researchers working to solve some of our most pressing energy concerns. Pecan Street is hosting its second student research competition, inviting the best and the brightest to use the organization’s extensive collection of energy-use data to help solve real-world problems.

Open to all full-time graduate and undergraduate students and with prizes totaling $10,000, the competition aims to connect Pecan Street’s well-established dataset with the innovation of young minds. As the grid gets smarter, data can help people play a more active role in how their electricity is made, moved, and used. Competitions like Pecan Street’s will get us there faster. Read More »

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Smoggier Skies in Texas? No Thanks, Washington!

Before leaving for summer recess, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill, H.R. 806, that would sideline public health protections by changing the Clean Air Act fundamentally and delay important air quality protections. This so-called by changing the required review by EPA of standards from the current 5-year interval to 10 years.

In Texas, several of our metro areas already fail the health-based standards for ozone, including the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth regions. Now, some legislators in Washington, D.C., have put forward legislation that would put even more Texans at risk, since the new 2015 health-based ozone standard would likely have identified the San Antonio region, as well as Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, as areas requiring new clean air actions be taken. The 2015 ozone air quality standard was put forward after a lengthy scientific evaluation process that involved many in the public health, medical, and scientific communities. Delaying these standards to 2025 means delaying commonsense measures that safeguard the air we breathe.

It’s no surprise that this bill was opposed by more than a dozen organizations in the medical and public health community, including the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association and the American Thoracic Society. Health effects from ground-level ozone can exacerbate respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For some in Texas, like the 1.4 million adult and 617,000 children statewide affected by asthma, air quality standards that protect against harmful levels of ground-level ozone can protect against life-threatening asthma attacks.

Texas only stands to lose when lawmakers in Washington weaken and delay important health protections. The “Smoggy Skies” bill has passed the House of Representatives, but hopefully, its fate in the Senate will be dead on arrival.

No thank you, Washington, Texans prefer clean air to breathe.

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Legislation, Ozone, San Antonio| Comments are closed

El Paso Electric should protect the city’s water and let solar power shine

Resiliency is a hot button word right now. Ten years ago, advocates focused on “adaptation,” or the idea of adapting to the coming effects of climate change. Now the focus is on “resiliency,” the ability to bounce forward – not backward – when something disastrous happens.

For El Paso, a city on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, resilience is critical. A huge city in the middle of the desert with an average rainfall around 8 inches per year, El Paso needs to be hardy, especially when it comes to water.

El Paso Water Utility (EPWU) is on top of the problem, enacting programs and initiatives to ensure El Paso’s water resiliency. Unfortunately, El Paso Electric – the city’s electric utility – is not doing everything it can to use less water.

To protect the city’s water, the utility should fully embrace no-water solar PV energy and not discourage customers from using solar power at their homes and businesses.

Read More »

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This city has impressive clean energy potential, but its utility is trying to block solar’s growth

The list of solar power’s benefits goes on and on.

Solar doesn’t pollute or waste water. Solar is getting cheaper every day, making it an increasingly affordable option for people to produce their own electricity and save money on their electric bills. The solar industry is employing thousands of people across Texas. And numerous studies show solar helps keep the electric grid balanced and reliable. What’s not to like?

Well, some utilities see customer-owned solar power as a threat to their profits – and want to stop its growth.

That’s why El Paso Electric has a new proposal that discriminates against homes and small businesses with solar panels. This proposal unfairly penalizes people who install solar, limits customer choice, and works against sunny El Paso’s impressive solar potential. Let’s break down the details. Read More »

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Houston students share stories about the air they breathe

In Bianca Ibarra’s neighborhood on Houston’s eastside, the smokestacks are simply a given, part of the landscape.

“It surrounds us,” she said. “When you leave for the first time as a kid, it’s a shock. You see that other places do not have this. We are living in one of the most polluted cities in the country.”

To help others understand that this is not normal or healthy, Ibarra, 18, produced “Houston, At What Cost?” The three-minute video details how air pollution damages hearts and lungs and offers ways for young people to help solve the problem.

Her work won the first video contest sponsored by Environmental Defense Fund for students from high schools near the heavily industrialized Houston Ship Channel.

Elena Craft, senior health scientist at EDF, said the contest provided students with a platform to talk about air pollution, a pressing concern in the eight-county Houston region, which has yet to meet federal standards for ozone, or smog. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Houston, Ozone, Particulate Matter| Comments are closed
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