Energy efficiency is not necessarily the first thing people think of when they think of Texas. Cowboys, big hair, rodeos, Tex Mex and acoustic guitars are the prominent stereotypes for the Lone Star state. But Texans care about the environment too. Three of the state’s biggest cities—Dallas, Austin and Houston—are showing the world that the saying “everything is bigger in Texas” applies to sustainability efforts too.
According to Dallas’ City Hall website, The Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to 178 Energy Star buildings. The city improves air quality through electrical energy consumption reduction. The city’s Aviation Department replaced its HVAC system to more efficient boiler and chillers that reduce emissions. The Public Works and Transportation department replaced 258 traffic lights with LED modules. The Ecology Parks Building and Jack Evans Police Headquarters opened with LEEDs certification. The Dallas Zoo reduces costs of electricity and battery purchases with irrigation of control clocks. All one million square feet of The Dallas Convention Center is LEED certified silver. According to North Texas Green Council the Convention Center fulfills all of the silver certification qualifications, some include:
- A building must save 20 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually by equipment replacement and retrofitting.
- Water consumption must be reduced by nominally 7 million gallons annually from replacing existing plumbing fixtures.
- 100 percent of energy must be powered by renewable sources.
- Hot water must be heated by “54 rooftop solar-thermal panels with a conventional gas-fired water heating system.”
Austin ranked number 10 on Mother Nature Networks’ list of America’s greenest cities. Austin is known as the counter-culture rich, music city of the Lone Star state and environmental consciousness tends to coincide with that attitude. MNN ranked Austin on their list because of its plan to be carbon neutral by 2020; along with its high number of parks, preserves and outdoor recreation. Although, the city is also a major advocate for plug-in vehicles. In January of this year, drivers of plug-in electric vehicles “surpassed their 10,000th charging session using Austin Energy’s Plug-In EVerywhere network” reported news station KXAN. Austin Energy’s Plug-In EVerywhere network is a program made to advocate the use of hybrid vehicles and consists of 152 plug-in stations throughout the city. Plug-in vehicles are energy efficient because they “can charge their fuel cells without making use of their internal combustion engine,” and can “produce even lower emissions than many standard hybrids,” Automotive.com explains. The city has been pushing the use of plug-ins since 2005. It’s estimated that their efforts have saved 7,363 gallons of gasoline and $24,000 in gas money, says KXAN.
Houston makes the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of efficient cities due to the fact that it has 231 Energy Star buildings that reportedly saved an estimated $79.7 million in energy costs in 2011. According to Green Houston the city has made many changes over the past decade that have progressed Houston’s energy efficiency.
- In 2009, the city sought out performance contractors to rework its wastewater treatment plants to reduce energy use.
- The city started replacing all traffic lights with LED lights through its Streetlight Pilot Project which reportedly saves the city $10,000 daily and $3.6 million annually.
- The Department of Energy gave Houston a $23 million grant to weatherize homes in the Houston area. The city created the Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP) to reduce residents’ energy consumption by the instillation of energy efficiency upgrades; caulking, weather-stripping, air conditioners, wall and attic insulation, solar screens, refrigerators and more. REEP provides these upgrades to income-qualified residents at no charge.