Green coffee

Starbucks brews up solar energy initiative across Houston and Texas

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."

Where are all those new Newstonians coming from? Texas. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

A new study shows Texas' major metros are some of the hottest places to move to in the U.S. — and Houston tops them all.

Real estate site CommercialCafe recently looked at "metro-to-metro" migration to see which areas are "winning" in terms of new residents, and a trio of Lone Star cities appears in the top five.

With an average net gain of 32,821 residents, Houston ranks third overall. Dallas-Fort Worth, with an average net gain of 30,639, follows at fourth. And Austin, with an average net gain of 26,733 people, is fifth. (The migration data was based on U.S. Census yearly average estimates for 2013-2017.)

"Among the three Texas metros on our list, Houston saw the largest population increase through metro-to-metro migration," says the report.

So where are these new residents coming from? Elsewhere in Texas. Houston gained the most new residents from DFW (16,306), followed by Austin (9,304) and San Antonio (7,443).

Those are also the most popular locations for Houston residents to move to. On average, more than 15,000 Houston residents relocated to DFW, followed closely by Austin (14,082) and San Antonio (8,692).

Houston's growth "is visible in Space City's many business districts, which added almost 18 million square feet of office space between 2013 and 2017, according to Yardi Matrix data," says the report. "This amount surpasses that of any other metro in the top 10. The Houston housing market is also on the upswing. The number of housing units here increased by an average of 2.1 percent — or 52,841 units — each year."

Outside of Texas, the report shows that folks are flocking to Phoenix (No. 1) and California's Inland Empire (No. 2).

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.