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Solar Panels at the George R Brown Convention Center

Put together the words “energy” and “Houston”, and most people think of oil and gas. But Houston is making big strides in renewable energy as well. Currently, the City of Houston buys about 25% of its energy from renewable sources, mostly wind. And the roof of the George R Brown Convention Center is about to get a little greener. From the KUHF NewsLab, Melissa Galvez reports.


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(Sound of kids playing in a fountain)

With temperatures in the high 90s recently, it’s hard to see anything good about Houston summer. The constant sun is great for these kids at Discovery Green, and it’s also good for the solar panels that provide energy to the park.  Discovery Green is one of a few City properties that already use solar energy.  But the roof of the George R Brown Convention Center is about to become one big experiment in solar power.

“The Mayor has been a huge push for this, you know, Houston is the energy capital of the world, so they’re starting to think, what is the future of energy?”

John Miggins is with Standard Renewable Energy, a company that’s working on the GRB solar project.  He says that the City brought together energy, research, and architecture organizations, along with funds from the Houston Endowment, to push for solar power on top of the convention center:

“40% of energy is used in buildings, so that’s a perfect example of how to use all these rooftops that are just sitting there, empty, let’s do something with that, you know?”

(Drilling sounds)

“So real quickly if you look up above you, those are the solar panels that are installed…”

The plan is to cover the roof and outer beams of the center with two different types of material: traditional panels and so-called “thin film”.  Thin film is light and easy to install, but the researchers want to know which type works better over time.  They also want to show that solar panels can fit in easily to a building’s design.  Jennifer Ronk is a researcher with Houston Advanced Research Center.  She hopes this encourages people to choose solar:

“Really one of the designs that George R Brown wanted to have was to make sure that panels look like it should be part of the building.  There’s sort of this perception that solar can be kind of an eye sore, and who really wants to look at, and I think that’s pretty beautiful up there.”

Crews are installing the panels right now. Once they’re up, they’ll produce enough energy to power about 16 houses for a year.  That’s still not enough for the whole building, but Ronk hopes that experiments like these will put Houston on the cutting edge when solar become cost competitive in a few years.  For now, she just hopes that people driving by on 59 will notice the big blue panels decorating the Convention Center:

“I want people to see cheap electricity, I want people to see clean electricity, I want them to think about air quality, breathing, and just having it be a happier place to be.”

For more information on the many solar projects around Houston, visit  www-solarhoustontx-org.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Melissa Galvez