Texas regulators OK controversial energy market overhaul

By Staff Reports


The proposed overhaul of Texas’ power grid could lead to higher electricity bills for residents. The Public Utility Commission unanimously voted to create a

secondary market that would benefit natural gas power plant operators by awarding credits for generating electricity during peak demand and limited reserves.

Despite opposition from ERCOT’s (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) independent market monitor and state senators the changes were approved. Opponents argue that the plan is costly to consumers and will not produce the desired results of permanently strengthening the grid.

Austin City Council Mandates Use of Low-Carbon Concrete

The city of Austin has passed resolutions mandating the use of lower-carbon concrete in future construction projects.

The move follows partnerships between the city and low-emission concrete producers, including CarbonCure Technologies, resulting in over a million cubic yards of lower-impact concrete being used in various projects such as the Sarah M. & Charles Seay Building at the University of Texas and the new Lake Austin HEB.

These two projects are estimated to have prevented the release of almost 104 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Concrete production accounts for about 7% of global emissions. CarbonCure and similar companies mitigate the carbon footprint of concrete by incorporating recycled carbon dioxide into the mix, using a process that transforms the greenhouse gas into mineral form even after demolition.

New EV Charger Manufacturing Facility to Be Built

Siemens, a German-based tech company, has announced plans to open a new electric vehicle (EV) charging manufacturing facility in Carrollton, Texas.

The facility will produce electric vehicle charging stations for both residential and commercial use and is expected to create +/- 100 jobs in the area.

This move comes as part of Siemens’ efforts to expand its EV charging infrastructure in the U.S. The facility will occupy a 50,000 square foot building and focus on manufacturing Level 2 EV chargers. The new facility will serve as a hub for the company’s EV charging station production in North America.

Oil Giant Begins Transition to Carbon Management

Houston based Occidental Petroleum, looking to transition towards becoming a carbon management company, began construction on its first direct-air carbon capture hub located in Ector County, West Texas.

It has the potential to capture up to 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.

This is part of Occidental’s goal to establish 100 such facilities globally by 2035. The facility is set to launch in 2025 with a starting capture capacity of 500,000 tons of CO² annually.

Solar Panel Recycling Company Takes Up the Challenge

SolarCycle, a company operating in Odessa, is engaged in solar panel recycling that involves a process of “upcycling” converting discarded PV cells into new, higher-value products.

The company can extract recyclable aluminum, copper, and silver; use the cells’ silicon to make new solar panels; or reprocess the silicon carbide, a material used in the production of semiconductors.

Currently, only 1% of the world’s solar panels are recycled; the majority of those are in Europe, where regulations make it mandatory for manufacturers to recycle photovoltaic waste.

SolarCycle is one of only five companies in the U.S. listed by the SEIA as capable of providing solar panel recycling services.

The industry is still very much in its infancy, challenged by devising a profit producing business model. SolarCycle currently charges $18 per panel received, as opposed to $1-$5 charged by landfill companies.

The company estimates that recycling each panel avoids the emissions of 97 pounds of CO².


New Report Highlights Wasteful Methane Releases

Oil and gas companies in Louisiana have allowed more than 27 billion cubic feet of methane to escape from leaks, flaring, and venting since 2019, according to a new analysis by Synapse Energy Economics.

The report, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and Taxpayers for Common Sense, suggests that the fossil fuel industry is both wasteful and a bigger air polluter than previously thought.

The amount of methane released by the industry in Louisiana is enough to meet the natural gas needs of more than half of the state’s homes.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with a warming effect that is approximately 84 times more powerful than CO² over a 20-year period. The report calls for stronger regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Entergy Louisiana Proposes Grid Hardening Project

Entergy New Orleans has proposed a $1 billion plan to storm-harden the city’s electrical grid.

The plan includes burying power lines, strengthening poles and equipment, and building a new substation and transmission lines.

The company states the plan is necessary to protect against increasingly frequent and severe storms, and could reduce the number of power outages experienced by residents during extreme weather events.

The proposal comes after criticism of the company’s response to Hurricane Ida, which left many New Orleans residents without power for days. However, the plan has also faced criticism for its potential cost to ratepayers.

The company has stated that it will seek funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other sources to offset the cost.

Canadian Company Invests $75 Million for Rare Earth Facility

Ucore Rare Metals Inc, a Canadian company that signed a deal with Louisiana Economic Development to set up a rare earth metal processing site, has announced that it will open in Rapides Parish.

The move will create 100+ jobs, with the company investing $75 million to establish the first modern technology rare earth element separation and purification facility in North America.

The plant will be located at an 80,800-square-foot brownfield facility in Alexandria and is expected to create hundreds of indirect jobs in central Louisiana paying an average of $50,000/year.

The Louisiana Strategic Metals Complex will establish a U.S.-based supply chain of rare earth oxides required to manufacture electric vehicle motors, wind turbine generators, and a variety of consumer goods, including smartphones and power tools.

The plant will help to meet the growing demand for rare earth metals, which are essential in the production of green technologies and consumer goods.

University of New Orleans Wind Energy Hub Awards Inaugural Scholarships

To address an expected shortage of wind energy workers, the University of New Orleans has created the Louisiana Wind Energy Hub and will offer a curriculum highlighting issues of offshore wind structure design, project management, and ocean engineering.

The Hub will award five scholarships for its inaugural year this fall.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the industry needs more than 44,000 workers in offshore wind energy and nearly 33,000 additional workers in communities to support offshore wind energy by 2030. Currently, there are fewer than 1,000 workers in the country’s offshore wind sector.


Pilot Project by Entergy Mississippi Seeks to Cut Emissions

Entergy Mississippi has installed a high-voltage clean air circuit breaker at one of its substations in Vicksburg, marking a milestone for both Entergy and Siemens Energy.

The installation was the first of its kind in Entergy’s four-state service area and only the second U.S. dead-tank BLUE Circuit Breaker manufactured by Siemens Energy.

The breaker uses a clean air mix of 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen as its insulating medium, rather than sulfur hexafluoride, which is a potent greenhouse gas. It replaces a high-voltage oil circuit breaker that was used to control the flow of power on Entergy’s transmission system.

The Siemens Energy BLUE Circuit BreakerTM is manufactured in Richland, Mississippi, and is a pilot project that will help Entergy understand how this type of technology can help reduce its greenhouse gas footprint and emissions.

Mississippi State University Establishes Forestry Related Scholarship Program

Timberland Investment Group founder, Bill Harris, is working to increase diversity in the natural resources industry.

Harris has launched a scholarship program for students from underrepresented communities at Mississippi State University, where he studied forestry.

The scholarship will provide financial support for students pursuing a degree in forestry or related fields.

Employment opportunities for students would include positions such as forestry financial analyst, geographical information specialist, environmental manager, wood products mill manager, and forest economist.

MDEQ Solicits Restoration Funding Proposals

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is calling for restoration project ideas for 2023 funding consideration. The MDEQ will consider projects that restore, enhance, or protect natural resources, including water resources, fisheries, and wildlife habitats.

The MDEQ will review the proposals and select projects for funding based on their potential to improve natural resources in Mississippi. The funding for the projects comes from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which was established to support the restoration of natural resources in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Anyone interested in submitting a project can do so via the Mississippi Restoration Project Portal.


The Huntsville factory of Polaris Inc. has achieved a significant milestone as the first fully electric Ranger XP Kinetic off-road vehicles have been dispatched to dealerships. Production of the electric vehicles began at the 900,000-square-foot facility in early April.

Polaris, the Minneapolis-based maker of all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, and side-by-side vehicles, has partnered with Zero Motorcycles on its electrification project.

Toyota Huntsville Plant to Install 130 Acres of Solar

The Toyota plant in Huntsville, Alabama, is set to go green with a $49 million solar project. The project will see the installation of over 22,000 solar modules across 130 acres of land, making it one of the largest solar arrays in Alabama. The solar panels will generate 9.8 megawatts of electricity, which will be used to power the plant’s operations, including the production of engines for Toyota’s hybrid vehicles.

Tuscaloosa Mercedes-Benz Plant Adds Luxury EV Production

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) in Alabama is preparing to produce the all-electric Maybach SUV.

The production of the battery-electric Maybach is part of Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to transition its entire lineup to electric vehicles by 2030.

The Maybach will be built on the same line as the electric GLE SUV, which has been produced at the Tuscaloosa plant since 2019.

The Tuscaloosa plant has invested $1 billion in the expansion of electric vehicle production, including the construction of a new battery facility. MBUSI has also announced plans to build a new global logistics center at the Tuscaloosa plant, which will support the production of electric vehicles.

The batteries powering the new EV will come from the Mercedes battery plant in Bibb County, just minutes away from the assembly plant.

Drive Electric Alabama Offers EV Showcase Events

Drive Electric Alabama, the statewide EV education and awareness campaign administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), hosted five showcase events throughout the state where people could experience up close the different EV makes and modeals and have their questions answered about EVs.

Each of the five events featured electric vehicle owners showcasing their car and chatting with anyone who wanted to learn more about owning an EV.

“These EV showcases provide a great opportunity for Alabamians interested in EVs to kick the tires, see firsthand the technology featured in these vehicles, and ask EV owners about their experiences with this new generation of vehicles.” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. ●


Florida's Environmental News

Subscribe today to receive our weekly newsletter, delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.