Austin, Texas Goes Green:
From Green Hosting to Smart Grid Communities like Pecan Street, Austin Leads The Way Austin, Texas is a progressive community, leading the way in green building and other environmentally friendly initiatives. Businesses and city-wide sponsors lead the way in getting green. The capital of Texas, Austin leads the green revolution with help from Austin Energy, the local power source, the Environmental Defense Fund, the local university and the federal stimulus program, enacted in 2009, that provides loans, grants and other support to aid developers, builders and entrepreneurs go green and stay green through sound design practices that improve the air residents breathe.
Green Tech Meets High Tech For more than 20 years, Austin has fostered leading edge business development with companies like Dell computers and Sematech, a company that serves high tech businesses with innovative manufacturing solutions, so getting green isn’t a short-sighted objective of the community. In fact, green building and operational activity is right at home in the great state of Texas and has been for decades.
The high tech sector has drawn tens of thousands of engineers, innovators, entrepreneurs and other smart energy users to create an incubator for new business – especially high tech businesses that employ green tech to power up profits. Austin’s business community proves that green is not only good for the environment, it’s good for business.
Clean tech depends on local, state and federal policies, subsidies for renewable energy use and government mandates to improve energy efficiency through the use of green building practices and renewable energy resources. Despite the fact that web hosting companies draw huge amounts of power, high tech companies have shrunk their carbon footprints in Austin, crating the perfect combination of high tech and green technologies to expand the commercial base of the city without creating a negative impact on the local environment. With the integration of clean technology into all phases of commercial development, other cities are turning to Austin to provide the road map to business expansion without the negatives associated with commercial use of traditional energy sources.
Pecan Street: The Smart Grid Community Call it an experiment, or a look into our future, the Pecan Street project demonstrates how communities can employ the latest in solar energy, smart home technology, electric vehicles and more efficient use of energy resources to create an innovative community based on the simple principle of “less is more” when it comes to energy consumption.
Located in Austin’s historic Mueller neighborhood, the Pecan Street program involves manufacturers, residential homes and clean energy businesses that focus on improving the quality of life for residents, employees and the entire Austin community.
An example? HelioVolt maintains a 12,000 square foot plant with neat rows or printing machines, chemical vats and ovens powered efficiently with a gleaming array of the latest in solar panel technology. The company is just one example of how the Austin business sector embraces the green building movement – a movement that uses thin solar panels that are more energy efficient than the thick, expensive photo-voltaic panels that were used just a few years back.
HelioVolt’s CEO, Jim Flanary, is a staunch advocate of the latest in solar tech, stating, “If you can do this really cheaply and really quickly, you’ve got a winner. We want to scale up as soon as we can.” The lessons learned from the Pecan Street smart grid program have been applied across the entire business sector of Austin, placing the big city with a small, college town feel, ahead of other green cities like San Francisco, California, Boulder, Colorado and Boston, Massachusetts.
What makes the Pecan Street project even more impressive is that Texas is a part of the “oil patch” – a large region that produces millions of barrels of oil and other traditional fossil fuels, a region that relies on traditional energy resources for revenues, employment and power. Even so, Pecan Street has received financial support from the community’s local energy supplier, community licensing agencies and smart energy advocacy groups at all levels of government.
In fact, Austin is the home of numerous green businesses usually associated with politically liberal towns. However, the Austin, Texas business community has embraced green building practices as part of the city’s innovative, hip culture, making green practices not only smart but tech-savvy, as well.
The Future of the Green Revolution The future of clean tech is evident today – right now – in Austin.
The Austin business community is ideally suited to make maximum use of the next major steps in going green, transforming the way we conduct business and manage metropolitan areas for the benefit of residents and the global environment. Austin is a leader in areas like green web hosting, digital development, smart car tech and other innovations that are good for business and good for the air we breathe.
However, Austin and its business partners still face numerous challenges including a shrinking pool of venture capital, the sometimes overwhelming costs of swapping clean tech for out-moded technologies that depend on fossil fuels, and the politics of oil, natural gas and other traditional energy resources. Budget cuts at the federal, state and city levels have pointed out the need for continued government and business support for the use of clean energy.
HelioVolt’s founder, B.J. Stanbery, a native Texan, makes a strong case for the continued support of governments and venture capitalists in the development of more clean tech energy resources, strongly suggesting that the local economies of cities like Austin will continue to rely on new energy technology to expand within areas like the Pecan Street program.
The manufacturing skills that workers have here [in Austin] are directly transferable to a thin-film solar company like us,” states Mr. Stanbery. “And the business culture is attractive here because people are used to taking risks in the energy space.
The viability of clean tech expanding within the oil patch that surrounds Pecan Street, Dell and the hundreds of other environmentally-conscious businesses that are now part of the fiscal infrastructure of Austin isn’t in doubt. The trend toward green will continue and energy smart developments like Austin’s Pecan Street, proving that clean technology works at work.
Austin continues to lead the way in green tech initiatives and smart business people take notice that clean tech is good for the environment and the bottom line – an investment in the future of our cities and our economy, providing a model for other metropolitan areas to follow.