By Angely Mercado
Houston, home to nearly 4,600 energy-related firms, is making a big investment in solar. City officials are planning to turn a landfill in the Sunnyside neighborhood into a solar farm, a move positioned as an economic development initiative with equity at its core. Once completed it will be the largest brownfield solar installation in the U.S., according to city officials.
“The Sunnyside landfill has been one of Houston’s biggest community challenges for decades, and I am proud we are one step closer to its transformation,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner through a press release. “I thank the Sunnyside community because this project would not have come together without its support. This project is an example of how cities can work with the community to address long-standing environmental justice concerns holistically, create green jobs and generate renewable energy in the process.”
Most Sunnyside residents that lived near the closed landfill for years are African American or Latino, two communities often underrepresented in the energy industry and in the country’s growing renewable energy sector.
“Projects like this are also important, from the idea of bringing the energy sector bringing benefits into parts of the community that might not have benefited from it previously,” Cottingham explained.
Houston’s Office of Sustainability promises that local contractors will be hired to install the solar panels and that training will be provided for them. Qualifying residents in the Sunnyside area also will be eligible for discounted power.
“It is a strong vote of confidence for this impactful project. All members of the project team realize that this Sunnyside Solar facility will be an iconic statement in the rejuvenation of the community,” said Dori Wolfe, managing director of Sunnyside Energy.
Cottingham said other major energy companies in Houston have taken notice of the Sunnyside Solar Farm as an inspiration to decarbonize, something that also points to how traditional oil and gas companies are considering going green. Construction is expected to start by the end of 2021.
The public-private solar partnership plans on being fully installed and operational by the end of 2022, if all goes to plan.
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