Austin Trek 2020
Each year the Energy and Cleantech Club travels to a city in order to network with professionals working in energy industry and learn more about their experiences. These relationships have the opportunity to flourish into internship and full time opportunities in the future. This year the club visited Austin, Texas which is poised to be one of the most green cities in the country. We mixed it up through the week with visits to some great companies, enjoying the sights of the city and eating all the tacos and barbecue we could.
Lunch with 8minute Solar Energy
First and fore-mostly, Barbecue is an absolute must when going to the great state of Texas. Fortunately we were able to hit two birds with one stone: An origination manager from 8minute Solar was kind enough to meet with us at la Barbecue, which is known to be in the tier of Franklin's Barbecue. As great as the barbecue was, the discussion with 8minute Solar proved to be even more delicious as she gave us the low down on 8minute Solar, her experience up to this point and how we could potentially break into the industry. Sadly, lunch came to an end and I got one last refill of the sugar filled southern sweet tea and we scooted on to the next thing.
E-Bike Tour of Austin
Many of us had never been to Austin prior to this trip and so we wanted to see the sights. To that end, we all channeled our inner gangster on as we took the “My Biker Gang” E-Bike Tour of the city. My ‘gang’ name was Iced Tea. If you didn’t get it yet, I really love southern sweet tea. We rode around the city for a few hours and snagged some dope pictures like the one here on the left and enjoyed all the great views the city could provide. If you had one way to see as much of Austin as possible ‘My Biker Gang’ is a great way to accomplish it!
Our 'gang' In front of the Austin City Hall
One of the many beautiful Murals in the city
Given the high caliber of companies we were visiting, it was absolutely crucial to fuel up with the best food there was to offer. What better way to start off the day than to have breakfast tacos at one of the many food trucks available in the city of Austin. We started the day off right with Veracruz Tacos and fueled up.
Meeting with CLEAResult
Day 2 started bright and early with CLEAResult where we were greeted by the CEO and an Engineering Director. Through interactive discussions we were able to learn about the goals and business model of CLEAResult. Personally, my favorite part was learning about the psychological focus on energy usage in which the company attempts to reduce consumer consumption of energy in tandem with increasing efficiency of the energy used.
Meeting and Lunch with Austin Energy
Changing gears from energy efficiency, we had the privilege of speaking to the management of the electric car division in Austin Energy. The country as a whole is slowly moving to hybrid and electric vehicle solutions, Austin is a leader in this and we learned how the Austin Energy as a municipal utility was paving the way for Austin to become one of the most Green Cities in the nation. Austin Energy’s EV division is also in the running for best mascot with StEVie the EV-Loving T-Rex.
Tour of ERCOT
After waiting for hours trying to meet stEVie the T-Rex, we decided to cut our losses and head on to the next company. ERCOT is one of the most important companies in the state of Texas as they manage the flow of 90% of the State’s electric power. One interesting fact we learned is that any Joe Shmoe can build a plant and connect into the grid, but it becomes a whole different rodeo when it comes to actually being able to sell the power since Texas is an Energy Only Market. An Energy Only Market is when power generating devices are only compensated when generating power onto the grid. This, rightfully so, makes Texas like the Wild West of Power Generating markets and brings up problems to solve that are unique to the state. They were also kind enough to give us an overview of their control room, where we witnessed one of the peaks of wind energy take place for the Texas Grid!
Meeting with Lower Colorado River Authority
Our hot reputation must have beat us to LCRA as after we arrived the fire alarm in the office started blasting. After extinguishing a burning microwave, we continued our discussion on the LCRA company and business model with the CFO and other senior leadership. In contrast to Austin Energy, LCRA is a non-profit public utility and therefore does not receive tax benefits associated with renewable energy production, and therefore their portfolio is primarily natural gas generation along with the management of the Lower Colorado River. To finish off our discussion, we were able to take a tour of the Tom Miller Dam which generates power and controls flow of the Lower Colorado River.
The Tom Miller Dam
Meeting with Recurrent Energy
Coming into Recurrent Energy, we were greeted by the company dog, Sadie. An argument can be made that this was the best interaction of the trip…But then we met the leadership at Recurrent Energy. They showed us that Sadie wasn’t the only one who could hold the attention of the whole room. The team taught us the steps involved from start to finish for a solar development project. One of the most interesting part of this discussion to me was the fact that many farmers are leasing their lands out to solar developers instead of actually farming.
Meeting with Orsted Onshore
And then there were five…As we approached the end of the trek members of the group began pealing off and heading for the airport. Those left trudged on through a tornado warning to speak with the last company – Orsted Onshore. The company ran on the vision of the CEO to create a world that runs entirely on green energy. The company’s commitment to this vision was apparent through our discussions as we learned about Orsted’s focus on both offshore and onshore renewables.
Finally, we wanted to give a shout out to one of our outgoing presidents, Nick Alexander. We love you!