StormGeo, a Houston-based weather intelligence provider, has partnered with Norwegian company 7Analytics to create technology positioned to revolutionize planning for floods. Photo courtesy of Kinder Institute

There’s no way around it: Houston floods. And with the deluge comes hurdles for businesses. The only real power we have in the face of such adversity is preparation.

StormGeo, a weather intelligence provider with its United States headquarters in Houston, has partnered with Norwegian company 7Analytics to create technology positioned to revolutionize planning for floods.

StormGeo debuted in Norway in 1997. In 2012, it acquired Houston company Impact Weather, says Bob Weinzapfel, a meteorologist and senior project manager of weather insights for StormGeo. Houston is one of 24 offices spread over 15 countries with more than 600 employees, Weinzapfel adds.

The team at 7Analytics, according to Weinzapfel, “Are a bunch of smart flood experts and machine learning experts.” Together, they are introducing a technology that Weinzapfel calls “a game changer” for Houston businesses.

7Analytics uses AI to give users an overview of Houston’s potential flooding based on a 72-hour forecast. “Any business like a grocery store or hospitals or even a refinery—any business with employees or customers, it’s important to know Are the roadways being flooded? Can my employees and customers get in?” says Weinzapfel.

StormGeo has long provided weather insights and guidance to businesses in Houston. Now, detailed maps provide real-time flood forecasting.

The maps forecast the probability of flash flooding in each subbasin, but perhaps more importantly, they can home in on clients’ buildings to show what inundation will look like in parking lots and nearby roads.

"Our product takes a real-time StormGeo weather forecast — for example, the risk of rainfall tomorrow—and translates it into actionable risk info, such as their site is at risk of up to a foot of flooding tomorrow with peak flood occurring at 2 p.m.," explains Jonas Toland, co-founder of 7Analytics.

Armed with such information, businesses can adjust operations ahead. For example, one client is a grocery store chain.

“They have business processes they have to get a jump on. The locations that have customers try to be the last to close and first to open,” Weinzapfel says.

That means that storm tracking can help with letting the store’s team know to purchase more emergency supplies to sell, schedule more employees to help sell them, and know when to close to keep those workers safe.

The Houston version of the solution is the first, but Weinzapfel says that the team is currently working to expand across greater Houston and then into Austin.

“We knew if we could do it here and do a really good job, we could do it anywhere using the same technology,” he adds.

There’s no question that flooding will continue to take place in Houston. But with StormGeo and 7Analytics’ Houston-area flood model, the people that serve us will be prepared.

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Innovative coastline project on Bolivar Peninsula receives federal funding

flood mitigation

The Galveston’s Coastal Barrier Project recently received federal funding to the tune of $500,000 to support construction on its flood mitigation plans for the area previously devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Known as Ike Dike, the proposed project includes implementing the Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System, including eight Gulf and Bay defense projects. The Bolivar Roads Gate System, a two-mile-long closure structure situated between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, is included in the plans and would protect against storm surge volumes entering the bay.

The funding support comes from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and will go toward the preconstruction engineering and design phase of Ecosystem Restoration feature G-28, the first segment of the Bolivar Peninsula and West Bay Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Shoreline and Island Protection.

Coastal Barrier Project - Galveston Projects

The project also includes protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat against coastal storms and erosion.

“The Coastal Texas Project is one of the largest projects in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” says Col. Rhett A. Blackmon, USACE Galveston District commander, in a statement. “This project is important to the nation for many reasons. Not only will it reduce risk to the vulnerable populations along the Texas coast, but it will also protect vital ecosystems and economically critical infrastructure vital to the U.S. supply chain and the many global industries located here.”

Hurricane Ike resulted in over $30 billion in storm-related damages to the Texas coast, reports the Coastal Barrier Project, and created a debris line 15 feet tall and 40 miles long in Chambers County. The estimated economic disruption due to Hurricane Ike exceeded $150 billion, FEMA reported.

The project is estimated to take two years to complete after construction starts and will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, reports Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Houston organization selects research on future foods in space health to receive $1M in funding

research and development

What would we eat if we were forced to decamp to another planet? The most immediate challenges faced by the food industry and astronauts exploring outside Earth are being addressed by The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine’s newest project.

Earlier this month, TRISH announced the initial selection for its Space Health Ingress Program (SHIP) solicitation. Working with California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Baylor-based program chose “Future Foods for Space: Mobilizing the Future Foods Community to Accelerate Advances in Space Health,” led by Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung at the University of California, Davis.

“TRISH is bringing in new ideas and investigators to propel space health research,” says Catherine Domingo, TRISH operations lead and research administration associate at Baylor College of Medicine, in the release. “We have long believed that new researchers with fresh perspectives drive innovation and advance human space exploration and SHIP builds on TRISH’s existing efforts to recruit and support new investigators in the space health research field, potentially yielding and high-impact ideas to protect space explorers.”

The goal of the project is to develop sustainable food products and ingredients that could fuel future space travelers on long-term voyages, or even habitation beyond our home planet.

Jamison-McClung and her team’s goal is to enact food-related space health research and inspire the community thereof by mobilizing academic and food-industry researchers who have not previously engaged with the realm of space exploration. Besides growing and developing food products, the project will also address production, storage, and delivery of the nutrition created by the team.

To that end, Jamison-McClung and her recruits will receive $1 million over the course of two years. The goal of the SHIP solicitation is to work with first-time NASA investigators, bringing new minds to the forefront of the space health research world.

“As we look to enable safer space exploration and habitation for humans, it is clear that food and nutrition are foundational,” says Dr. Asha S. Collins, chair of the SHIP advisory board, in a press release. “We’re excited to see how accelerating innovation in food science for space health could also result in food-related innovations for people on Earth in remote areas and food deserts.”

Clean energy nonprofit CEO to step down, search for replacement to begin

moving on

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.