Bayou City Banks

Houston declared one of the most affordable places to live and work in 2019

Houstonians get to keep a good bit of cash in their pockets. Photo by Jacob Power

A new study indicates it's worth it to live and work in Houston. The study, done by BusinessStudent.com, puts Houston among the country's 25 most affordable places to live and work for 2019.

Four other Texas cities appear ahead of Houston in the report: Fort Worth (No. 7), College Station (No. 18), Irving (No. 21), and Dallas (No. 22). Noticeably absent from the top 25 are Austin and San Antonio.

"Making a high salary is great," BusinessStudent.com points out, "but if rents are so high that you have very little disposable income left over, are you going to be able to put money away for a rainy day?"

"Obviously," the website adds, "a person's individual cultural and social tastes should also be considered, but from a purely financial standpoint, it would be wise to consult this list ... before you begin your next job or home search."

To come up with its list, BusinessStudent.com examined salaries for 100 business-related jobs on Indeed.com and compared them with the average rent of a two-bedroom apartment listed on Rentjungle.com. In the top three positions on BusinessStudent.com's affordability list are Tulsa, Oklahoma; Lexington, Kentucky; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The study found that in Houston, residents had 79 percent of their salary left after paying rent. That's based on an average annual salary of $79,579 and average monthly rent of $1,401.

Fort Worth residents have it the best in Texas, with 82 percent of their salary left after housing costs, with an average annual salary of $75,797 and rent of $1,108. In College Station, 80 percent of the average salary ($55,086) remained after paying rent ($906 a month).

In Irving, 79 percent of the average annual salary ($77,527) was left after paying rent ($1,327 a month). Dallas had the same share of salary remaining after paying rent (79 percent), but the average salary ($82,609) and average rent ($1,422) were considerably higher than Fort Worth or Irving — and slightly higher than Houston.

------

This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

The coffee company announced three Houston-area solar projects. Courtesy of Starbucks

Coffee shop chain Starbucks is plugging into Texas' solar energy industry in a big way.

Two 10-megawatt solar farms in Texas owned by Cypress Creek Renewables LLC are providing enough energy for the equivalent of 360 Starbuck stores, including locations in Houston, Humble, Katy, and Spring. Separately, Starbucks has invested in six other Texas solar farms owned by Cypress Creek, representing 50 megawatts of solar energy; Santa Monica, California-based Cypress Creek is selling that power to other customers.

Three of the eight solar farms in the Texas portfolio are just outside the Houston metro area. One is in the Fort Bend County town of Beasley, while two of the projects are in Wallis and Wharton.

Starbucks already relies on a North Carolina solar farm equipped with 149,000 panels to deliver solar energy equivalent to powering 600 Starbucks stores in North Carolina, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

"Our long-standing commitment to renewable energy supports our greener-retail initiative and demonstrates our aspiration to sustainable coffee, served sustainably," Rebecca Zimmer, Starbucks' director of global environmental impact, says in an April 15 release about its solar investment in Texas. "Now, we are investing in new, renewable energy projects in our store communities, which we know is something our partners and customers can appreciate for their local economy and for the environment."

The solar commitment in Texas aligns with Starbucks' goal of designing, building, and operating 10,000 "greener" company-owned stores around the world by 2025. The Seattle-based retailer expects this initiative — whose features include renewable energy, energy efficiency, and waste reduction — to cut $50 million in utility costs over the next 10 years.

U.S. Bank's community development division teamed up with Starbucks and Cypress Creek on the Texas solar farms. Chris Roetheli, a business development officer at U.S. Bank, says solar tax equity investments like those undertaken by Starbucks are growing in popularity among non-traditional investors.

"Starbucks is taking a unique approach — investing in solar farms regionally to support a specific group of its stores," Roetheli says in the announcement of the solar collaboration. "This is a new concept, and one that I think other companies are watching and may follow. It's an interesting model that allows them to talk specifically about the impact of their investments."

Starbucks' investment comes as Texas' stature in the solar energy sector keeps rising, along with the state's role in the wind energy industry.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, more than 2,900 megawatts of solar capacity are installed in Texas. That's enough energy to power nearly 350,000 homes. Among the states, Texas ranks fifth for the amount of installed solar capacity.

Solar investment in Texas exceeds $4.5 billion, with about 650 solar companies operating statewide, the association says. The solar energy industry employs more than 13,000 full-time and part-time workers in Texas, according to the Texas Solar Power Association.

With more than 4 gigawatts (over 7,000 megawatts) of solar capacity expected to be added in Texas over the next five years, the national solar association reported in 2018 that "Texas is poised to become a nationwide leader in solar energy … ."

As it stands now, though, solar supplies less than 1 percent of Texas' electricity.

A 2018 state-by-state report card for friendliness toward solar power assigned a "C" to Texas, putting it in 34th place among the states.

The report card, released by SolarPowerRocks.com, lauds the backing of big Texas cities like Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio in encouraging residential solar installations.

However, the report card adds, outlying areas in Texas lag their urban counterparts in support of residential solar, "and we'd like lawmakers here to codify more protections and goals for solar adoption, but in the most populous areas, the Lone Star [State] shines."