Author Archive: Shane Johnson

September Happy Hour: Solar PV in Africa—Challenges, Opportunities & Trends

This month, Solar Austin is going to step outside of our Austin bubble and hear about solar development in Africa. While industrialized countries face the challenge of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, many developing countries – particularly those in Africa – don’t even have widespread access to electricity. While 80% of the global population has some access to electricity, only 30% of people in Africa do. About 600 million Africans live without electricity, mostly in rural communities.

Solar is helping communities in Africa leapfrog past polluting fossil fuels to expand access to this essential service. With access to electricity comes improvement in educational opportunities, health services, and access to clean water and information. Instead of relying on massive transmission line investments, the electrification of Africa is utilizing on-site solar and micro-grids, which allow development to proceed much quicker.

This month, we will hear from Bako Ambianda, the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Labacorp Group, and an international development specialist, business strategist, and global African entrepreneur. Mr. Ambianda will discuss his experiences facilitating off grid and large-scale solar projects in Africa including his involvement with Akon Lighting Africa. In 2012, he developed a game plan and “blue print” for tapping into Africa’s opportunities in key sectors, facilitating international solar, biomass, hydro, and hotel construction projects in 16 African countries, with clients from China, India, US, Turkey, France, and Germany. He will talk about the challenges, opportunities, and trends in developing solar in Africa.

Tuesday, September 26th, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto Blvd
RSVP here.

Solar Austin is excited to present Mr. Ambianda, as our September Happy Hour speaker, and we hope you’ll join us for this exciting conversation.

August Happy Hour: Mayor Adler on Cities & Climate Change

With every passing day, society’s reliance on fossil fuels further exacerbates the climate change crisis. The reality of climate change impacts on central Texas is sobering—unless we move past fossil fuels, even more severe storms, droughts, and extreme heat will become the new normal.

Knowing these facts while watching Trump pull the US from the Paris climate Change agreement was horrifying. Fortunately, Trump’s decision has served to galvanize many local leaders to redouble their action—Austin Mayor Steve Adler is one of those local climate leaders reaffirming commitment to the Paris Accord. Solar Austin is excited to present Mayor Adler as our August Happy Hour speaker.

August 22, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten 
1607 San Jacinto St.

Mayor Adler will share his views on the decision to pull out of the Paris agreement and how Austin fits in among a coalition of cities both taking action right now and planning future efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and general environmental impact.

Austin’s Community Climate Plan provides a roadmap for the Austin community to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2050 through efforts to reduce and hopefully eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production, natural gas, transportation, solid waste management and industrial processes. Action items include investing in renewable energy, investment in energy storage, mass transit, expanding composting, and promulgation of electric vehicles and smart grid technologies.

Join us to hear from Mayor Adler about Austin’s efforts to reduce the community’s impact on the climate and what you can do to make a difference.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Smart Inverters and Distributed Energy Resources for a Smarter Grid

As solar and other renewable energy technologies spread further throughout society, effectively connecting these distributed means of generation to current transmission infrastructure and expanding and modernizing the grid become ever more pressing issues. Solar Austin is excited to present our July Happy Hour speaker, Raghu Belur, the co-cofounder of Enphase, who will tell us more about the exciting advancements in smart inverter, smart grid, and distributed energy resources technology, particularly as related to the residential market. Enphase has also generously provided for food and drinks at this month’s happy hour.

July 25, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten 
1607 San Jacinto St.
 
Raghu has more than 20 years of experience in the clean energy and high technology industries. Prior to Enphase, he developed high-speed optical communication technology for Cerent, which was later acquired by Cisco Systems for $7 billion. Before Cerent, Raghu was an engineer at the Indian Institute of Science, where he played a key role in the development of an alternative energy gasification system. He co-founded Enphase Energy with Martin Fornage in 2006.  Raghu has a MSEE from Texas A&M University and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
  
Because solar and wind energy are both distributed and intermittent, power generated from these sources must be closely monitored in order to ensure reliability of the electric grid and efficient delivery of electricity. This means that cutting-edge technology must be used to upgrade old transmission infrastructure. Solar panel systems, however, require an additional layer of complexity because they only produce direct current electricity. These systems are connected to inverters, which convert the electricity produced to alternating current so that it can be fed into a specific building’s electric system or into the local grid. Although inverters can be expensive and add further complexity to an electric system, “smart” inverters and other new technology can allow us to control and automate specific electrical systems and extremely fine resolution of the grid to make the grid more resilient.
 
Smarter inverters and other new transmission infrastructure can help renewable resources to further penetrate into the market and promulgate throughout the grid—an essential foundation for expanding renewable energy generation to fight air pollution and climate change, mushroom the number of local clean energy jobs, and provide solar to even more people.

June Happy Hour: Sustainable Design & Architecture

Contemporary architectural design incorporates many new innovations to reduce energy usage and improve overall sustainability of new projects.
 
Next Tuesday Jonathan Smith, Associate Partner at the architecture firm Lake Flato, will recount various sustainable design features, including solar-readiness, that are employed in projects right now like the new Austin Central Library.
 
Jonathan’s projects include the Austin Central Library, which will power 1/3 of its energy usage from rooftop solar panels, and the mixed-use, sustainably-minded development Sylvan Thirty in Dallas. He will discuss many of the challenges and opportunities of integrated design of solar and other energy innovations within architecture, so this is a great opportunity for small business owners, home owners, and other Austin constituents who hope to incorporate solar, energy efficiency, and other innovations into new developments.
 
Tuesday, June 27, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto Blvd
 
Join us to learn about the most up-to-date and effective integrated design features happening in our very own community and how you can become more involved.