Mission

Solar Austin’s mission is to accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy in Central Texas and to expand access to the benefits of solar to everyone to mitigate climate change, create a healthy community and support a strong local economy.

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Solar Austin February Happy Hour: Tour of Austin Central Library Green Features

We’re switching things up a bit for our February happy hour.  We won’t be at Scholz Garten this month, so don’t go there, or you’ll be lonely.

Instead, we hope you’ll join us for an expert-guided look at the green features – including the on-site solar energy system – of the Austin Central Library. This LEED Platinum-certified building opened late October 2017 has the distinction of being the first new building with a solar array on the downtown sector of the electric grid, which comes with added complications.

Because we want to do the tour before it gets dark, we’ll be starting our program a bit earlier than usual. The presentation will start at 5:45, but please join us even if you’ll be a bit late.


When:
Tuesday, February 26, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Where: Demonstration Area 1st floor Austin Central Library (710 W Cesar Chavez St)
RSVP now!

The lead architect Jonathan Smith, of Lake Flato Architects, and solar designer Bungane Mehlomakulu, of Integral Group, will be leading the tour and discussion.

Get more information and RSVP here.

We hope to see you at the library!

Solar Austin Board of Directors

 

More about the Speakers: 

Jonathan Smith, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is an Associate Partner at Lake Flato Architects. Jonathan’s designs foster meaningful and lasting relationships between building occupants and the natural environment, demonstrating excellence in the art of building, the science of sustainability and love for the natural landscape. Jonathan has a strong passion for transformative projects that have an impact beyond their property lines through environmental sustainability, performance-based design and response to climate. Jonathan was Project Architect on the LEED Platinum 180,000 square foot new Central Library in his hometown of Austin, Texas. In 2018 the Austin Central Library was named one of Time Magazine’s World’s Greatest Places. Jonathan is currently working on projects in Texas, California and Hawaii.

Bungane Mehlomakulu, PE, LEED AP BD+C, is a Managing Principal at Integral Group in Austin. Bungane is a design principal working at the boundary between architecture, engineering, and sustainability to deliver a balanced, efficient, and meaningful services to customers and clients. His passion for sustainable building design and operation made him an expert in passive strategies including natural ventilation, daylight harvesting, plug load reductions, and solar control and the application of energy efficient technologies, including radiant floors, displacement ventilation, and chilled beams.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: The Future is Bright – Utility-Scale Solar Development

This month we will be joined by Rich Clark, Director of Development and Engineering at 7X Energy, who will discuss utility-scale solar development with a focus on the Texas market and how new technology is helping lead the solar industry into a bright future. 7X Energy serves corporations, utilities, municipalities, and electric co-ops with cost-competitive solar energy.

When: Tuesday, January 22, 5:30-8 p.m.
Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd
RSVP now for this important and engaging conversation.

At 7X, Rich leads the engineering including design, energy simulations, site studies, and permitting that support development of the company’s growing solar project pipeline. Prior to joining 7X, Rich worked at SunPower as the Development Engineering Manager for Utility Power Plants (UPP) covering North and South America. There, Rich worked on numerous power plant projects in the early development phase totaling over 3 GW of capacity. He also led the development engineering on seven UPP projects totaling over 450 MW in the U.S. and Latin America. Before SunPower, Rich was a Project Engineer at NRG Energy working on development for solar distributed generation and utility solar power plants.

Rich has an MBA from Drexel University and BS in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. He is also a licensed PE in New Jersey.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Equity and Inclusion in the Solar Industry


This month we are hosting a panel on how to make the solar industry more inclusive, equitable, and diverse for our November 2018 Happy Hour.

The panelists will be:

  •  Rubén Cantú, Director of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin;
  • Jenn Goodwillie, Counsel at Counsel at EDP Renewables North America (EDPR), representing WRISE (Women in Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy);
  • Kazique Jelani Prince, Senior Policy Advisor & Education Coordinator in the Office of Mayor Steve Adler and Project Manager from the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism & Systemic Inequities; and
  • Karen Magid, Director of Sustainability and STEM at Huston-Tillotson University.

When: Tuesday, November 27th, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd
RSVP now for this engaging and important conversation.

The panel will examine barriers that employers face to systematically make businesses, nonprofits, and the industry as a whole, more welcoming, inclusive and accountable spaces for underrepresented people and some of the solutions to these issues. This includes examining why people of color, women, LBGTQ+ people, and others often remain excluded from businesses’ recruitment strategies and leadership development.

Panelists will discuss best practices for outreach and inclusion, as well as retention and leadership development to help minority employees succeed. The discussion will a look at how to ensure an organization’s leadership understands the root causes of employment inequity and how to address the inequities that current and employees prospective employees face.

Vote Early, Vote Local, Vote Solar

Early voting is in full swing and Texans are showing up at the polls to exercise their precious right to vote.  Austinites have a petty long ballot to vote on and we know it can be difficult to get educated on all of the races.  Local leadership is critical for advancing the use of solar energy and addressing climate change though.  Climate change and energy issues aren’t often front and center in campaigns, so we worked with our partners at Earth Day ATX, Shades of Green and 350 Austin to develop a climate and energy questionnaire for the Austin mayoral and city council candidates. 

We encourage you to read the candidates responses before deciding who most deserves your vote for Austin mayor and your city council member (if your district is up for an election this year).  If you don’t have time to read the questionnaire responses though, we made a shortcut for you.  We scored all responses based on two measures:

  1. Support: How much the candidate’s response demonstrates support for expanding the use of solar energy and phasing out the use of fossil fuels, and, more generally, support for action to slow climate change and respond to the impacts of climate change. (High, Low, Medium)
  2. Knowledge: How much the candidate’s response demonstrates knowledge of the problems and potential solutions. More specific, detailed responses generally score higher, as long as they are based on facts. (High, Low, Medium)

Candidates were scored based solely on their written responses to the questionnaire.  Responses to questions asked at the candidate forums Solar Austin co-hosted, and other information (from candidate websites, for example), was not factored in.

Solar Austin is not endorsing specific candidates, but we do encourage all Austin voters to keep support for clean energy – especially solar – in mind when voting. 

Don’t forget that city elections are non-partisan, so voting “straight ticket” won’t cast a vote in the mayoral or city council races.  Keep clicking through and vote all the way down the ballot.  Many important decisions are made at the local level.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Michael Osborne on Electric Transportation

The recent dire report on climate change from the IPCC, which affirmed we only have until 2030 to solve the climate crisis, is a powerful reminder of how urgently we need to transform our society to no longer use fossil fuels. Improving transportation and reducing emissions from this sector have remained largely intractable in Austin—something of great concern since transportation produces a third of our city’s emissions.

The City of Austin has expanded its fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) in recent years, and Austin Energy recently received a grant to install more EV charging stations around the city. However, we still have a long way to go to transition our transportation sector away from fossil fuels.

We are excited to welcome Michael Osborne, former special assistant to the General Manager at Austin Energy and co-founder of Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance (TREIA), to discuss how transportation transformation is the next building block in the fight for our climate and a zero-carbon world. Michael will also introduce the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance (TxETRA), which he co-founded, and talk about what the organization has accomplished so far.

When: Tuesday, October 23rd, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd
RSVP now to join this interesting conversation.

We hope you will join us for this conversation with a standout clean energy industry thought-leader about what the trail-blazers in electric vehicle policy are doing.