A California tech company is planning on rolling out a handful of atmospheric water generation projects near Houston. Photo via skyh2o.com

Houstonians are used to filtering their water, but few really ponder why they’re doing it.

“Most people, when they think about water stress, they think about water scarcity, like what you see happening in Northern Africa or maybe the Southern U.S.,” says Alexander von Welczeck, chairman, president and CEO of SkyH2O. “A bigger, creeping issue, particularly in the industrialized world, is water toxicity.”

Some Houston tap water contains “forever chemicals” that can be toxic, as some reports have found. In fact, says von Welczeck, water toxicity is a problem across the Gulf Coast. That’s why the California-based businessman has identified Houston as the first region to benefit from SkyH2O’s technology.

The company will break ground on its first SkyH2O Station in the first quarter of 2024 in Dickinson, strategically placed between Houston and Galveston. That will be followed by another in Angleton. Eventually, says von Welczeck, there will be eight SkyH2O stations in the greater Houston area.

Von Welczek describes a SkyH2O Station as bearing a resemblance to “a big, modern gas station, but as opposed to gas, the primary product is fresh, healthy water.” With everything from charging stations for electric vehicles to a farmers market-style set-up of sustainable food, the stations will indeed be like a futuristic gas station.

Water will be distributed both in recyclable packaging for smaller businesses and homes, and in bulk to fill water tankers for ranches and other larger customers. Von Welczeck foresees, for example, Galveston cruise ships filling up with a supply of water at that station.

But where will this fresh, clean water come from? SkyH2O uses atmospheric water generation, or AWG, systems to pull humidity from the air and turn it into potable water. The higher the humidity, the more water can be produced.

“Obviously in and around Houston, we have tremendous humidity,” von Welczeck says.

This is all done using the Maximus 4260, the latest and greatest of the company’s AWG systems. The machine is rated to produce 10,500 litres of fresh, potable water a day. It produces net zero water, meaning that it doesn’t come from any existing water resource.

What comes out initially is a semi-distilled, purified water. The next step is further filtering it and adding minerals to make the product potable for customers. Von Welczeck says that SkyH2O’s water meets the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s water standards.

The serial entrepreneur has been working in the climate tech space since 2002 and has a proven track record. Von Welczeck says that he sold his company, Solar Power Partners, to NRG in 2010.

“From my perspective, most everything in climate technology, whether it's clean energy, recycling, even food and water, they're all interrelated,” he says.

After opening around 20 Texas locations, von Welczeck has his sights set on covering the entire Gulf Coast. After that, he hopes to expand to Mediterranean Europe, particularly water-strapped islands. He’s even in discussions with potential clients in the Middle East. But Houston will be the first to taste SkyH2O’s potentially globe-altering water.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Meet the new arrivals at Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Greentown Labs

9 startups join Houston climatech accelerator to tackle carbon capture, energy efficiency, and more

new to hou

Greentown Labs closed out the second quarter with the addition of 17 startups, and just over half are collaborating with the Houston location.

The technology represented by the new additions span the industries of energy, agriculture, and manufacturing, with a focus on carbon capture, electrical usage efficiency, and resource accessibility.

Carbon capture

Two of the newest Houston members, Capture6 and C-Quester, are also part of the Carbon2Value Initiative, a global partnership between the Greentown Labs, Urban Future Lab in New York, and Fraunhofer, headquartered in Michigan. C2V focuses on accelerating technology solutions that capture carbon dioxide for conversion into value-adding products and services.

Similar to the way a sponge is moistened and later wrung out, C-Quester pulls CO2 from flue gas into a temperature-sensitive material that can be heated later to release carbon, making the storage and transport of CO2 easier to manage.

Capture6 uses CO2 pulled from the atmosphere through their Direct Air Capture technology in combination with water treatment methodologies to remove excess salinity from saltwater and brine, resulting in greater freshwater recovery, usable elements for a variety of industries, and carbonates transformed into mineralized form to prevent continued carbon emissions.

Energy efficiency

The Helix MICRA filters created by Helix Earth Technologies can remove CO2 from power plants and other pollutants commonly encountered in the shipping industry. The filtering technology, initially developed for NASA, also dehumidifies air conditioning systems for more efficient energy use.

H2PRO uses its water-splitting technology, E-TAC, to produce green hydrogen in a two-step process that requires less energy to perform than the more common process of electrolysis with improved safety aspects.

Steam production and distribution get an upgrade with Imperium Technologies, the first electromechanical solution that enables previously unseen systems monitoring for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, on average.

With a keen focus on predictive insights, eologix deploys smart sensors to give operators advance warning of situations that could cause rotor imbalances to keep wind turbines – and the energy they produce – optimized.

Resource accessibility

NW NA supports the goals of stability, predictability, and accessibility of electric-powered vehicle use with its high-power EV-charging station, mobile electricity storage units, and renewable energy measurement and forecasting tool.

From the Metaversity under development, to its oil and gas line leak detection systems, Kauel goes all-in on AI for its clients, even helping children with kinesthetic rehabilitation through augmented and virtual reality programs.

Finally, SkyH2O brings fresh, clean water to areas with limited access to existing infrastructure or natural water resources for commercial, military, and industrial use.

Another eight startups join the cohort named above as members of the Greentown Labs Boston location: Capro-X, Carbon2Stone, Cottage, Dioxycle, enaDyne, Global Algae Innovations, Terrafixing, and Thola.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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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.