George R. Brown Convention Center Receives Grant for Rooftop Solar Panels

NICOLE BURNES, ASSISTANT EDITOR
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Houston, TX – The George R. Brown Convention Center announced Monday that it will install one of the largest solar energy systems in the region atop its roof in 2009 as the result of a grant and new public-private partnership with a local philanthropy.

Houston Endowment Inc. has approved an $850,000 grant to help fund the $1 million pilot program, which calls for a 100-kilowatt energy system and solar panels to be installed on the 11-acre roof of the downtown convention center. The balance of funding for the project is still being pursued.

The George R. Brown Convention Center is the 12th largest convention center in the nation, according to Trade Show Executive’s directory of The World’s Top Convention Centers.  The new solar panels are the start of a green roof vision and master plan for the convention center.  The city’s Convention & Entertainment Facilities Department, which manages the building, is also considering plans to install small gardens on a portion of the roof.

“This is a natural step for us, since we’ve devoted so much of 2008 toward reducing our carbon footprint,” said Luther Villagomez, general manager of the convention center.

The facility already relies exclusively on alternative energy as its source of power.  Roughly 20% of the energy purchased by the city comes from green power, and since July,  energy for the center comes through renewable energy credits purchased by the city’s Energy Management Office.

“We at the Endowment are excited about helping to make our city’s convention center green,” said Larry Faulkner, president of Houston Endowment. “This effort will continue to put Houston at the forefront on energy and climate issues.”

The Houston Architecture Foundation has been awarded the project in partnership with the City of Houston, BP Solar, CenterPoint and Amegy.  It will administer the solar power grant to the convention center, and a steering committee including the private partners and the City of Houston will be responsible for executing the project.

“We continue to show how public-private partnerships can get things done efficiently,” said Houston Mayor Bill White.  “This is a nice complement to the recent opening of Discovery Green Park, and also a public-private partnership with the City.”

Reach Larry Faulkner at (713) 238-8100 or lfaulkner@houstonendowment.org; Bill White at (832) 393-1000 or mayor@cityofhouston.net; Luther Villagomez at luther.villagomez@cityofhouston.net